Bernard Fanning, the Australian singer songwriter and former Powderfinger frontman, has released his third solo studio album, Civil Dusk. He wrote much of the material for the album while in Spain, upon his return to Australia he opened a recording studio, La Cueva Studio, in Byron Bay with his long time friend and producer, Nick DiDia. Fanning finished writing the songs and then recorded the album at La Cueva.
“Sometimes, particular decisions appear to be the most sensible or realistic path to take. A civil, pragmatic compromise. But the passage of time reveals those decisions to have been flawed and to have far deeper and wide ranging consequences than predicted at the time. We all live with the consequences of our decisions but have daily things to attend to.”
One of the themes explored in Civil Dusk is the interplay of decisions and consequences especially in the context of a relationship.
Fanning wears his heart on his sleeve in the opening track Emerald Flame singing “You shattered my defences, now nothing will divide us”. It is a beautiful song with some outstanding imagery in the lyrics. In Wasting Time, the album’s first single, he then goes on to deliver a very honest but not necessarily pleasant sentiment that not all love is meant to last, singing “You and I are wasting time” to the most contradictory upbeat uplifting music. It’s a rather comedic delivery of a confronting reality.
Rush Of Blood, explores the emotion of regret and is completely stripped back in instrumentation starting with only piano and a raw vocal delivery of the lyrics “In a rush of blood I threw it all away…what was I thinking…”. Later the strings enter filling the sound and intensifying the mood.
Change Of Pace is so well placed in the album; after getting caught up in the slow sorrow of Rush Of Blood, rock guitars give you a jump as Fanning opens with “A change of pace will do me good”. It’s as if he is saying “snap out of it, that’s enough of being sad”. To me this indicates a similar sense of humour as in the track Wasting Time, while at the same time showing the emotional ups and downs a person might experience in any play of decision and consequence.
Overall, Bernard Fanning keeps the instrumentation rather simple throughout this album sticking to a warm and inviting acoustic rock sound that supports the lyrics. The lyrics are relatable and touching and gives you some time, while getting lost in the music, to explore the sort of feelings that come from experiencing the consequences of decisions you’ve made yourself. L.O.L.A. stood out to me for its inclusion of some peculiar timbres, a violin interlude and a soulful chorus. Sooner Or Later has more of a country feel especially with the inclusion of fiddle-like violin playing.
I found Civil Dusk to be an engaging listen all the way through. The simplistic approach to instrumentation and the effective use of texture in the tracks supporting the vocals was matched so well. I found myself listening to a couple of the tracks over and over to hear the truth Fanning was speaking in the lyrics.