The Finn Brothers return to Auckland, 1996
By Chris Bourke ©
The rest of the world has a problem keeping up with the Finns. Overseas, theyÕre confused: is Tim in or out of the band? DidnÕt that band split up?
But weÕre used to it. So is Paul Hester, drummer for both Split Enz and Crowded House, who recently explained, ÔEvery few years, Tim and Neil have to drop everything and get together. They sing a few songs and maybe write some new ones. Something good comes out of it, then they go back to what they were doing.Õ
The original Finn brothersÕ recordings took place in 1989, when Crowded House was at a low ebb. The songs were requisitioned by the band and gave it a new lease of life.
In May, 1994 – just after Hester suddenly left Crowded House – Tim and Neil talked about recording together again. Six months later, after the Together Alone world tour, and Neil had produced Dave DobbynÕs Twist, they finally snatched the time to record Finn in Auckland.
Finn didnÕt have the sibling harmonies and perfectly formed melodies most were expecting. Instead it was a casual, spontaneous affair. The songs were left in a raw state; the brothers played most of the instruments themselves and gave the album a low-fi production. It was like a Finn brothersÕ musical scrapbook, the melodic snapshots providing forgotten or unrealised links between Paul McCartneyÕs first solo albums and Chris KnoxÕs four-track experiments, the Bee Gees and Split Enz, Elton John and Sunday hymns, Jimi Hendrix and George Formby.
It was a year before the album was released. The brothers had paid for the sessions themselves, so had control over the tapes. Their American record label, Capitol, didnÕt want to know. If they didnÕt know what to do with Crowded House, what could they do with this uncommercial diversion? However their English label (neatly, itÕs Parlophone, the one with the £ symbol revolving on all those Beatles albums) warmly embraced it for what it was: an uncommercial diversion, maybe, but one that is both charming and musical. (Parlophone have experience with this kind of thing; theyÕd magnanimously released TimÕs Alt affair, an album so widely distributed here IÕve never sighted anything other than an unmarked tape.)
ÔI donÕt want people to see this as a bit of a dabble before I get back to the real stuff,Õ said Neil in February. ÔThis is part of a continuum, and weÕre very pleased with it.Õ Besides, in the world of low-fi, isnÕt commercial supposed to be a dirty word?
Like the first Crowded House album, Finn just will not go away; it has been distracting the brothers all year. They toured it in England, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, winning over both devotees and sceptics with an eccentric form of psychedelic cabaret. The album was finally released in America on Discovery, an independent label run by Jac Holzman, who broke the Doors through to the other side. Discovery has been working the album hard in the States, trying to attract an audience other than the dedicated fans who filled the clubs when the brothers toured there in July. Just to confuse the American public, at the same time the Finns were touring, the Crowded House anthology Recurring Dream was released. DidnÕt Tim leave the band? DidnÕt that band break up?
ItÕs been a busy year for the Finns. They both took part in Enzso, the symphonic Split Enz project (didnÕt that band break up?). Neil broke up his band Crowded House. TimÕs been recording a solo album, produced by his friend Ricky Fataar, aka Stig of the Rutles. Some have called Crowded House the best Beatles tribute since the Rutles. All three bands have recently reunited (Crowded House say farewell in Sydney on November 23; the Beatles say farewell with Anthology 3; the Rutles say farewell with Archaeology).
Tonight at the Power Station, the Finns say farewell to Finn. The concert came about through Discovery who, with several US radio stations, ran a competition to send Finn fans to a Finn brothers concert in Auckland.
That leaves the Finn brothers at a loose end. Maybe theyÕll get together, sing a few songs, and write some new ones.