I love getting suggestions for blog (as some of you who come here will know), I encourage it and whilst sometimes it might take us a while to get to them, I do like to think that we try our best to get all requests done. Now this is a fairly recent request, but it is one that caught my eye to be honest. Neil Finn is an musician from New Zealand and this is his third solo album, which may be weird to some people as he has been making music since 1976...well, that depends on if you count albums he has done with other people outside of some very successful groups (Split Enz, Crowded House), but for all the sake of arguments and because I am doing the best I can understanding this - this is the third studio album just in his name only which is not connected to a film or TV show as well. If I am wrong, there is a wall behind you which will understand more - if Wikipedia cannot help me (or fans of his music), then I can only do the best I can in the circumstances. All I really know about Neil Finn's work is some tracks from Crowded House to be honest (I am a big fan of 'Woodface') and a few songs I have hear from Split Enz. So when it was suggested I pick this one up, it did tickle my fancy for a few reasons. 1 - It is not metal/indie/Frank Zappa (even I need my off days) and 2 - I want to see what the man is up to these days. He has been making music for almost 40 years, that is a long time and let’s see if the years have changed what made one of the Finn brothers so special...
Starting off the album is "Impressions" which for me at least does not match up to anything I have heard from Mr Finn before, it surpasses it. It is a dark sea to be lost into and since I have been asked to listen to this album, it is a track that has started to sink its roots in. I love it when artist can still make an impression on you, even after modern society has stated them to the outer realms of music for their new pop idols. With a mix of minimal strings, a subtle female vocal in the back ground, the back being held back and Neil Finn himself not being the main focus (which for a solo artist is a rare feat in any track) we are shown an artist who is slave to the song instead of the other way round. The next song is the title track of the album which is more like Crowded House than most of the other tracks on this album. It feels like you have known it for years, but without the inwards sigh of over familiarity that can happen with some songs. With lyrics about Halloween and very high heights, you can feel that Finn desires to come down from wherever he currently abodes. It is a nice song, but not as breathtaking as "Impressions". "Flying In The Face Of Love" is a funky little number, the bass line that pins the song is all encompassing, it dominates the landscape and makes this hymn to the broken hearted that Mr Finn has been doing for years. It has a retro 80's feeling, but once again it does not feel dated or musically redundant; another surprise for this blogger.
The fourth track is "Divebomber"; this has Finn singing in a falsetto style against a backdrop of atmospheric keyboards, strings and the sound of aeroplanes heading towards the earth to perform one last deadly act onto the planet. With the military drumming guiding the song along, I can see what was being the idea behind the song. I have to say that this is my least favourite song on the album, it has shades of Queen's "Bijou" in the styling of the song and much like that song on 'Innuendo' (cleverly linked here) it really could have been left to the side. Next is "Better Than TV", this song might not be the best song again, but after "Divebomber" it is such an improvement. The combinations of strings, pipes and that gentle acoustic strum makes this song another pleasant moment on the album. The more I listened to the song, the more rewarding it became; a sign of a grower that will probably become one of the more important tracks. "Pony Ride" is the sixth track off the album, this song builds slowly from a steady bass and drum beginning and with the guitar picking its way through, you see the song build into a subtly beautiful number that once again shows what an accomplished song writer Mr Finn is. "White Lies & Alibis" starts with some strange noises, just a gentle series of noises that eventually gives way to the sort of number which Peter Gabriel would love to re-create; it has a fragile beauty about it, but all the while it does not exactly move. It seems to be a bit static in places when the rest of this album has a bit of movement about it, it is not a bad song by any stretch; just not the best song either.
"Recluse" follows on, this is another Finn standard number - uplifting chorus, check; witting lyrics. check; understated musical leanings, check - I have no problem with this song at all, it does exactly what it says on the tin and should become a firm favourite for Mr Finn's fans. "Strangest Friends" is another number which does nothing spectacular, but it does keep the album going; you can be lost in the song and impressed by the craftsmanship of Mr Finn, I think the worlds I am looking for is workman-like. The penultimate track is "In My Blood", a quiet and stirring number which centres on the simple guitar plucking of Finn, a small string section that gives way to a gentle chorus and second section of the song that is very pleasant on the ears again. Ending the album is "Lights Of New York" which has a melon collie which ends this album on a reflective note, it feels like a modern take on the bar song that would be song at the end of the night; it is peaceful and once again on this album. Beautiful.
The album is not trying to reinvent the wheel or the persona of Neil Finn; after over 30 years of treading the planet as a musician and playing his songs all around the world, the man knows exactly who he is and what he is capable of creating. There were a few moments on this album where you can hear the spirit of his older bands (but saying as he was a vocalist in these groups, that is also not hard). However, I heard other bands in the mix as well; I heard things like The National, Modest Mouse, The War On Drugs - so either he is still taking influences from new bands, or (and I think this is more likely) that they are influenced by his style. This album is a rewarding listen, it has a few tracks which are not quite as good as the others but overall it is a surprise release for this blogger.
8 out of ten - Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my money, time and heart
Top track - Impressions
You can purchase the album from Amazon here
You can visit the Neil Finn website here
You can listen to the album on Spotify here
Here is a link for our Deezer users