Neil Finn Goes His Own Way

Neil Finn

Sunday, March 30

I would be curious to know if Neil Finn’s approach to songwriting has varied, in any way he could put his finger on, depending on who he’s working with: 1) ’70s pop icons Split Enz, which big brother Tim recruited Neil into in 1977; 2) ’80s pop icons Crowded House, built from the ends of the Enz; 3) his duo albums with Tim; or 4) his solo work. Or does he just write songs as they pop into his head and record them with anyone handy? Wild guess: Judging by category 4 album Dizzy Heights, released last month, and its lavish, even experimental production, working alone (so to speak—joining him here as instrumentalists are Neil’s wife Sharon and sons Liam and Elroy) frees him to do anything he wants. (In a recent interview, Finn did admit that he’s “always looking for a chance to step into the unknown. That’s where all the good stuff happens in my experience.”

It’s not overproduced, mind you, just generously so (with producer Dave Fridmann), including a huge palette of vocal processing effects and far more strings than I recall on any other Finn album. Roughly generalizing, Finn’s voice is de-emphasized in the album’s early tracks, and thus so are his trademark buoyantly arcing melodies; they both become more prominent as the album goes on.

For example, there are the half-whispered lyrics and up-all-night sleepiness of opener “Impressions,” with wisps of strings and guitar wafting by like dream images and a coda that sounds like a Revolver backward-tape effect. “Divebomber” marks Dizzy Heights’ rococo height; from simple acoustic guitar, it builds—via airplane noises, ominous Hollywood brass, and more suspended cymbal than any 10 comic-book-movie scores—to a Bolero-ish snare-drum ostinato, and ends with sirens, explosions, and bleak cocktail piano. (The emotional theatricality here seems very Tim.) On track 8, “Recluse,” a sweetly aching Finn tune at last takes the spotlight; following that, “Strangest Friends” and “In My Blood” come closest to the relative simplicity of a standard Crowded House guitar/bass/drums texture. On the final track, “Lights of New York,” his voice is way up front, accompanied only by urban ambient sounds and keyboards (harmonium morphing into piano). Oh, and a dash of choir. And more strings. With Midlake. The Neptune, 1303 N.E. 45th St., 877-784-4849, stgpresents.org. $45. 8 p.m.

 
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