Wednesday, February 19, 2014


Neil Finn`s career after leaving Crowded House (the first time) has been hard to pin down and enjoy.  Solo albums, a reunion with the House, various side projects with family members and all-star collectives have all yielded primarily mellow mood music and a lack of the straight-forward pop gems that gained him McCartney comparisons and a beloved status among fans.  In short, where`s the hits?

There's probably nothing on here that will change that, but the good news is it's a fascinating album, unlike any he's done in the past.  Teaming up with producer Dave Fridmann (Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev), Finn gains a lot of the other-worldly textures from that console man, and truly stretches out in several directions.  There are several groove songs, best described as soul music, such as Flying In The Face Of Love, a bouncy first single that nods to later Curtis Mayfield, fun and funky and rich.  Elsewhere, tracks are heavily orchestrated, delicious big string sounds, real ones it should be noted.  White Lies and Alibis moves into Peter Gabriel territory.  But then the album takes a big left turn, introducing the strangest song Finn's ever done, and just as equally successful.  Divebomber is a dream fantasy about flying, complete with airplane sound effects, choral parts, hazy moments, passages sung in a croaky falsetto, more orchestra, and whistling.  It's hypnotic and melodic and modern and a joyous departure from the norm.

Lyrically, Finn's no longer dealing with the basic verse-chorus, love song sentiments that he mastered back then, but that loss is now replaced with broader concepts.  Recluse looks at most of us, stuck behind whatever screens we're addicted to:  "It's people that stay at home/we're watching A Game Of Thrones."  Strangest Friends could be a Bowie lyric, people seeming like aliens.  This is certainly not the album anyone could have expected, as Finn has taken his game to dizzying heights.

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