FINN, Neil and Tim Finn (Parlophone)
If the walls could talk in the Finn family home in Te Awamutu, this is the album from the boys’ bedroom. Its relaxed, spontaneous feel captures a childhood spent playing acoustic guitars together, working out a few chords after a session with A Hard Day’s Night on the mono radiogram. Recorded quickly, it benefits from a natural sound and unlaboured approach. It’s a charming album full of melodic colour and sonic surprises, as if they’ve grabbed whatever was in the air and thrown it onto tape.
It may sound as if the session was yesterday, but this album has been threatened for years. This is the second time the Finns have got together for a diversionary bit of brotherly music-making. The first time, the songs were so poppy they were requisitioned for Woodface, the breakthrough album for Crowded House in Europe.
But the five years since then have made all the difference to the way this album sounds. Neil and Tim are now much more in charge of their musical destinies. With Together Alone Crowded House cut the apron strings with Mitchell Froom, and found a more Pacific voice. Before & After saw Tim Finn in complete command of his songwriting skills, and the album quietly captured a committed audience. But producing Dave Dobbyn’s Twist put the final stamp on the flavour of Finn.
This isn’t the Everly harmony album many were expecting, but a glimpse at the Finns’ musical vocabulary before the production craftsmanship adds its polish. The language they grew up with is of course, the Beatles. But it’s the period that matters: this recalls Magical Mystery Tour and the “White Album”, when they were having some fun experimenting in the studio after the hard pop graft of Sgt Pepper was completed.
Just as clear however are the distinctive Finn touches: the Enzy paranoia of ‘Eyes of the World’, the swampy ‘Suffer Never’ that could be recent Crowded House. Their voices are often indistinguishable, with the unique harmonies that always result when siblings sing together. ‘News Travels Fast’ and ‘Where is My Soul’ in particular are glorious acoustic duets, the latter with a soaring middle eight that belongs in a Crowdies’ hit. The songs seem like works in progress, with verses and choruses that might fit elsewhere, and dodgy lyrics left in to retain the spirit of creativity. Giving the minimalism some flavour are the “found sounds” taken from whatever was at hand: wooden drums, scratched piano strings, muffled drums and tea-chest bass, a ukulele and backward tape loops.
Only 38 minutes long, with 11 tracks (and a couple of those could go), Finn bubbles with musical textures and gestures. It’s a captivating insight into the brothers of invention.
CHRIS BOURKE (Rip It Up, 1995)