Neil Finn: Just horsing around?

Last updated 09:17 20/05/2010

I was interested to read this the other day; it's an article for Spinner explaining Neil Finn's involvement in the recently re-launched Flying Nun (see here for background).

Just Horsin' Around

The interview with Finn has him talking about some pet-projects in and around the European shows with Crowded House leading up to the band's new album, Intriguer, released next month.

Why do I get the feeling that a) Neil Finn is just horsing around these days? And b) people think that's okay?

I've written about Finn before; about my requirements of him - how I expect him to follow up the best of Try Whistling This and One Nil. Or to take on a project again like the Rain soundtrack.

The last Crowded House album was okay; it had a few nice songs on it - but it felt like a Neil Finn album wearing a Crowded House mask.

Now he's talking about making "a shoegazer album"; about how he and his wife, Sharon, have recorded under the name Pyjama Party. Their record might even appear on Flying Nun. Or the "fully psychedelic record" might appear, care of Flying Nun.

Well, I'm sorry, he might have just been feeding a journalist some lines - it happens - but, reading that, it all started to feel like I bought a record label and agreed to be seen as the public sponsor, in return I'll use it to release whatever I want, including albums that other labels wouldn't touch and that people don't really want to hear.

Don't get me wrong - I really like Neil Finn's music. The best of it. I think since leaving Crowded House (the first time) he has written half a dozen great songs between the two Finn Brothers albums and another half dozen gems between his two solo albums. There's the last Crowded House album, with three superb songs and another two or three that are solid. And, presumably, there will be a few nuggets on Intriguer.

But is this it for Finn? Is he just the elder statesman of Kiwi pop now? Allowed to do whatever he wants? It seems a bit lazily regal to me. It feels a bit like someone who has lost their confidence and is not prepared to be judged on the merit of material released under their own name. (And that was what I was getting at last year with this post).

Sure, a Crowded House album - especially now - is a Finn album in all but name. But it still gives him a chance to hide behind the paying tribute to the spirit of Paul Hester/Crowded House vibe that informed the last record and world tour.

As for records like the last Seven Worlds Collide project and this Pyjama Party thing with his wife...well that's just revenue collecting on the back of petty indulgence.

Get control of the reins Neil. Oh, there's my shoes, I see them down there...hello...

So, here's the question for readers - and for Neil Finn too  I guess - has the former Split Enz and once-again-Crowded House front man and singer/songwriter done enough to afford this butterfly-style of recording, flitting from one project to another, taking it easy, never stretching himself; hiding from risks? Has he really done enough for that? Are we to just enjoy, accept and revere anything with his name vaguely attached to it?

Or, should he keep proving himself? Should he earn our support and listenership with some great tunes and musical ideas on another soundtrack and/or solo album?

And are you expecting good things from Crowded House this time or do you think it is a case of law of diminishing returns?

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Tomatohead   #1   09:34 am May 20 2010

Wow, no Flying Nun reissues for you :)! I wish I still loved his music. I think the nail in the coffin was seeing the band live two years ago. It was technically perfect and he even seemed like a lovely guy, but I wasn't moved - that is until they did "Better Be Home Soon" for Paul Hester. I felt a wee bit dirty for that. I think your challenge from last year was fair, and I hope the new things will hold more than the odd nugget.

Jonesy   #2   09:41 am May 20 2010

OK, heres the deal....since when do artists (of any genre) work for us? They can do whatever they really want, and if it bombs (as it often does) then hopefully they learn from their mistake and do something better! Neil Finn is well within his rights to make an album purely made up of banging a tin with a wooden spoon if he likes-if ya dont like it then dont buy it/listen to it! So many examples in recent few years of bands changing tack slightly and getting roasted for it. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it failed-their choice! My point is, its not really a big deal what he does with his time or money, if the musics good I might buy it, if it sucks I definitely wont. Its a system thats worked before! Cheers!

mat   #3   09:44 am May 20 2010

Yes Simon, he has earned it.

The man saved Split Enz, took the world on with The House and got a win, then backed it up solo and with Tim. That's over 30 years of making good things happen dude, I think he can have the odd freebie to indulge himself now. I seriously doubt he keeps going for the sake of it at the risk of releasing mediocre music, I think we will continue to see a few gems here and there.

And I also seriously doubt he went as far as saving Flying Nun to use as a vehicle to release rubbish music. He may use it to take some risks on some different stuff "that others labels wouldn't touch" but it may well surprise us.

Feel Ninn   #4   09:44 am May 20 2010

"should he keep proving himself?" Basically, he has already proven himself as being a competent singer/songwriter. I think he needs to keep up with the times and/or try something completely left field. Why not? If he can afford the luxury of it then do it.

In NZ, if someone sees something with the Finn name on it, they think it's a seal of quality, I'm not really a fan but that's just me. I respect what Neil Finn has done and think it's great he's cranked up Flying Nun again but PLEASE give an original, unique Kiwi band an opportunity. Don't sign another Crowded house rip off band who sound like The Feelers, OpShop etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc.

I think musicians/artists etc etc do need to keep proving themseleves, push the envelope and try different things. It's about musical maturity as well and surely most, if not all, musicians don't want their new album to sound like their last .... surely!!!

Sandy   #5   09:46 am May 20 2010

Damn right he can do whatever he wants. You neglect to mention that with Seven Worlds Collide II ALL procedes went to charity, and that Neil in fact helped SAVE the Flying Nun label. Also, it is spelt Pajama Party (no 'y')and that news is over a year old. In your article you say what you require, what you expect, what you think of half a dozen things Neil has been doing etc etc and then you have the nerve of saying Finn is guilty of petty indulgence. Hello, pot calling kettle.

David   #6   09:46 am May 20 2010

I'm sorry, Sweetman, your "requirements" of him? What makes you think he gives a flying crap about your so-called "requirements"? The last time I checked, you weren't his employer.... Unless he's on your personal payroll, the answer is "Yes, he IS allowed to do whatever he wants". "Has (he) ... done enough to afford this"? He's been a professional musician since the 70s for God's sake. Just how much longer do you think he should refrain from indulging himself? And more importantly, what do you think gives you the right to make that call?

As for "not taking risks", every time he releases an album he runs the risk that the public won't buy it. If his pockets are deep enough after all these years that he can absorb the cost if this happens, good on him. When the album comes out I'll do him the courtesy of actually listening to the damn thing before forming an opinion.

davidbdunedin   #7   09:54 am May 20 2010

Yeah, let him be. If he happens to pop out something good, or even great, that’s a bonus. If not, we just go on savouring the outstanding body of work he’s already created. It may be that he simply can’t match the previous levels. So what? John Walker doesn’t run sub 4 minute miles anymore and we still respect his efforts. He wouldn’t be alone in not putting out great work in the latter part of the career. Brother Tim is a good example of that.

nic   #8   09:55 am May 20 2010

This seems like dumb writing to me - to criticise someone for something they haven't done, based on an article Simon read which seemed all fairly tongue in cheek anyway. Also why shouldn't Neil Finn experiment with his sound - this is not something you'd criticise Lou Reed or Tom Waits for.

RJD   #9   09:58 am May 20 2010

Are you going to write about Dio at all? I thought you were a Sabbath fan?

T-Rex   #10   10:12 am May 20 2010

I think Neil Finn is quite possibly the least interesting New Zealander ever.

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