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I'm the co-host of THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO with Dana & Carl (Sunday nights, 9 to Midnight Eastern, www.westcottradio.org).  As a freelance writer, I contributed to Goldmine magazine from 1986-2006, wrote liner notes for Rhino Records' compilation CD Poptopia!  Power Pop Classics Of The '90s, and for releases by The Flashcubes, The Finkers, Screen Test, 1.4.5., and Jack "Penetrator" Lipton.  I contributed to the books Bubblegum Music Is The Naked Truth, Shake Some Action, Lost In The Grooves, and MusicHound Rock, and to DISCoveries, Amazing Heroes, The Comics Buyer's Guide, Yeah Yeah Yeah, Comics Collector, The Buffalo News, and The Syracuse New Times.  I also wrote the liner notes for the four THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO compilation CDs, because, well, who could stop me?  My standing offer to write liner notes for a Bay City Rollers compilation has remained criminally ignored.  Still intend to write and sell a Batman story someday.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Finkers: Whole Lotta Fun

 These are my liner notes to The Finkers' compilation Whole Lotta Fun, released by the Japanese label Wizzard In Vinyl in 2002.  I remain tickled by the notion of an Australian rock 'n' roll band enlisting the services of an American writer to pen liner notes for their Japanese CD release.  We are the world!

Among all the good things that I could say about Australian pop gods The Finkers, there can be no greater compliment to the group's impeccable rockin' pop prowess than this:  The Finkers make records that sound great on the radio.

See, that's all I've ever really wanted from any decent rock 'n' roll group.  Give me a song that will sound great on the radio, and make it a song that will still sound great even if it does get played on the radio.  Furthermore, I want it to STILL sound great even if it gets played on the radio over and over again...y'know, like a great rock 'n' roll record should be played.

Well, consider The Finkers one damn decent rock 'n' roll band, one that understands the pop fan's primal need for great radio records, and delivers 'em with style, panache and a side order of beer-battered onion rings.  The group, comprised of singer/bassist Michael Carpenter (whose impressive solo catalogue is also a must-have for pop fans), guitarists Mick O'Regan and Matt Allison and percussion stylist Mickster, have mastered the driving essence of melodic rock 'n' roll, the music that makes our blood pump faster and causes our hearts to leap to a secure position on our collective sleeves.  It's power pop, and I mean that in the best sense of the phrase:  catchy, engaging pop music played with the power that moves your feet and thrills your soul.  It's real rock 'n' roll, the idiom developed by such masters as Chuck Berry, The Beatles and The Ramones.  It's The Finkers, and it's really, really good.

This collection kicks off with "This Time It's Love," which was the lead track on The Finkers' first album, Fresh Set-O-Prints.  It was also the first Finkers track I ever heard, and could you ask for a better introduction?  Jeez, the song's confident Raspberries-meet-KISS guitar hook alone would make it a keeper; following "This Time It's Love" with the incredible "Adeline Now" and "I Can't Wait" makes the sort of take-no-prisoners 1-2-3 rockin' pop punch that overwhelms any opposition, with the forceful dispatch of the original Captain Marvel mopping up the floor with the Monster Society of Evil.  Take THAT, evildoers!

Our program continues with three more way-fab tracks from Fresh Set-O-Prints, "Out On A High," "Gurls Are Coming Down" and "Tonight."  The latter tune is an overt ode to underground pop radio, playin' the shoulda-been-hits ("Power pop hits all night!") for the faithful few, name-checking pop icons like Tommy Keene and 20/20, and reveling in the sheer thrill of great rock 'n' roll music.  (And of great rock 'n' roll music PLAYED ON THE RADIO, of course.  Not to belabor my earlier point....)

After Fresh Set-O-Prints, The Finkers released an interim EP called Last Thing On My Mind, the title track of which simply and succinctly confirmed The Finkers' greatness.  Okay, "greatness" is an overused adjective in rock 'n' roll, and perhaps it's applied too quickly, too lightly and too often for folks to take the label seriously.  Nonetheless, any group that can come up with a perfect, PERFECT rockin' pop record like "Last Thing On My Mind" has indeed achieved greatness (or was maybe born great, or at least had greatness thrust upon them).  Oh, MAN, whatta song!  Your mileage may vary, I suppose, but lemme tell ya that this track has earned a permanent berth on my personal All-Time Hot 100, and its insistent, irresistible charge of caffeine-coated rhythm 'n' hooks oughtta make a believer out of you, too.  (It's easy to become a Finkers fan!  All you need is a pulse!)

The EP also included an ace cover of Blue Ash's "Tonight's My Lucky Night"--gotta love a band that covers Blue Ash!  "Last Thing On My Mind" was reprised on The Finkers' second and most recent long-player, Double Back & Go, an album which gave the world "100 Watt Ronson" (a statement of intent for your basic good ol' rock 'n' roll road show, gotta go!), the beguiling "Pretty As A Picture," the lust-by-numbers "Just Call Tracy," the swoon-worthy "Teenage Crush" and "Go-Go Devils," a punky, snotty-sounding salute to the (ahem) "saucy Japanese rock 'n' roll teasers."  The album closes in style with "Daphne Green" and "Up To You," each offering further evidence of The Finkers' undeniable knack for a decent hook and a cool melody.

And now it's on to the bonus tracks!  Yes, it's that section of the CD collection where the band has scraped together a bunch of odds and ends (if not sods), and slapped 'em together in hopes of coercing the faithful fans who bought all of the previous releases into shellin' out some more dough for a few hard-to-find tracks.  Completists--we love ya to bits!  And your devotion is well-rewarded here, with some capable covers from various tribute albums ("Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out," "Radio Song" and "I-94," from tributes to The Replacements, Gene Clark and Radio Birdman, respectively), and the incredibly rare "Stacy Cut The Crap" (from a split 7" release, of which a mere 100 were originally pressed).  Add TWO previously-unreleased tracks--the...um, cheeky "My Bum Was Made For Levis" and a cover of The Easybeats' "Funny Feelin'"--and you've got actual value for your consumer purchase, you lucky Finkers fan, you!

A final note:  my pal Dana Bonn and I co-host a weekly rockin' pop radio show called This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio.  It's pretty much the kind of show that The Finkers describe in "Tonight," except with fewer listeners and more junk food.  The Finkers have been consistent favorites on our little mutant radio program, simply because they do make records that just plain deserve to inundate the airwaves.  When I first heard "Last Thing On My Mind," I was compelled to go on the air and proclaim that it was exactly the sort of song that always made me wish I had a radio show, specifically so I could play that sort of song on my radio show.  For what they've already done, and for whatever else they do in the future, The Finkers are likely to remain favorites.  And whatever they do, it's probably gonna sound great on the radio.

2016 note:  The Finkers' Whole Lotta Fun CD is long since out of print, but most of the individual Finkers albums are still kickin' around out there.  The band was generous enough to allow us to use "Last Thing On My Mind" on the first This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio compilation, which you can download here:  https://futuremanrecords.bandcamp.com/album/this-is-rock-n-roll-radio-vol-1-2