Neil Finn: Just horsing around?

21:20, May 19 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).

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.

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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