The Finn Brothers
Well, it all started a long time ago, in the mid Seventies when older brother Tim invited younger brother Neil to join his proto-punk band Split Enz (see S). Pretty soon Neil was writing and taking over some singing duties, their biggest hit being Neil’s ‘I Got You’. But Tim left the band in 1984 to pursue a solo career…see later
But in 1995 he recorded an album of freshly written songs with brother Neil; Finn was a pretty low-production affair, almost a demo – but I really loved it. It was like an acoustic Split Enz record with Tim and Neil swapping vocals and songwriting – they also played all the instruments on it. Best songs are ‘Bullets in my Hairdo’, ‘Where is my Soul’ and best of all ‘Angels Heap’. The album did very little in the way of sales. Tim carried on his solo career with mixed success and Neil formed Crowded House (see C) which was massive. Tim joined Neil for one album Woodface, but the two got together nine years later with Everyone is Here, credited to The Finn Brothers; which leads me to believe they maybe intended to make a go of it together. However, whether it was sibling rivalry or just that they both preferred working on their own – who knows. But after a successful tour, where I saw them at the Royal Albert Hall, so far they have resisted the attempt to record together again. The album is quite smoothly produced, but for me, somehow there is something lacking in most of the songs. The oomph which Crowded House had is missing, and the vocals though pleasant don’t quite hit the spot, except on one brilliant song ‘Edible Flowers’ which bears a passing resemblance to ‘Don’t Dream it’s Over’ by Crowded House. But as usual on a second re-listen, the darned thing is growing on me. Anyway…
I have followed them pretty closely and am still trying to re-buy early Tim songs which I once had on vinyl…but my first CD by Tim is his self-titled (but third) album Tim Finn. I did have Big Canoe on vinyl and have just re-orderd it on CD…and listening to it, it is great. Almost a continuation of Split Enz without the Enz, some good social concern songs ‘No thunder, No Fire, No Rain’ but best were ‘Carve You in Marble’ and ‘Hyacinth’. The album Tim Finn was also excellent, with another batch of interesting songs; ‘Parahaka’, and ‘Suicide on Downing Street’ stand out from a strong field. I feel that with this album though Tim was moving more into a classic rock vibe, rather than the quirky indie sound of Split Enz. Before and After (1993) was a bit of a non-starter for me, I never really got into it. One good song; ‘Persuasion’ and the rest I can barely recall even after just hearing it. Say It Is So (1999) is again a bit of a poor record. I keep hoping that he will surprise me, and he only continues to disappoint, All that exuberance of Split Enz, that inventiveness of Woodface and Finn is missing, all we have are either slow nothing songs or fast nothing songs, only the first track ‘Underwater Mountains’ shows any promise. I have sort-of given up on him since – only picking him up in charity shops and only one other record 2006’s Imaginary Kingdom. The songs are shorter and a bit snappier at least, so not such a bad record…best songs are ‘Dead Flowers’ and ‘Couldn’t Be Done’.
And that left Neil..who had phenomenal success with Crowded House (seeC) but after just 4 studio albums he called it a day and went solo with Try Whistling This 1998. Truly this is almost a CH album just without the band and a tad quieter. An excellent record with catchy tunes and rousing choruses – best in my book are ‘She will have Her Way’ and ‘Sinner’ but there isn’t a bad track on it. The follow-up One Nil (2002) was a different matter – a failure in my book; too much like he was trying desperately to sound different and ‘Modern’. I think he failed on both counts. In fact I don’t like the album at all. But the year before this in 2001 Neil did a few concerts with ‘friends’ and released an album culled from those called Seven Worlds Collide; mostly it is Neil singing some from his solo work and a handful from Crowded House and Split Enz, but Johnny Marr sings a couple of numbers and a girl singer Lisa Germano, there are even a couple by brither Tim. A really nice laid-back album, simple arrangements and good singing – great to hear simpler versions of well-known favourites..a relative success. Neil then resurrected Crowded house for a few tours and 2 new albums (see C) but in 2009 another album came out under the monicker 7 Worlds Collide called The Sun Came Out. Ostensibly a charity album, all proceeds to Oxfam it had more or less the same band but in a studio setting and with the addition of K. T. Tunstall (see T ) and Wilco (see W). This time it was all original songs, no old ones; not bad at all but I haven’t enjoyed this as much, probably because I didn’t know the songs beforehand. But it is pretty good really; at this stage of his career Neil was not looking for hits anymore, or even to be the lead singer or songwriter. This is really a collective effort. Not sure if I can really single out any songs but a nice album. My final (so far) album by the Finns brothers is Neil’s Out Of Silence (2018) and a very different sort of Neil Finn album, no fast songs, no guitars hardly but mostly quiet piano-led songs. And even the singing is different, somehow subdued and reaching higher but softer notes. I am not sure if I really like it, but it is okay. Best songs ‘Love Is Emotional’, ‘Independence Day’ and a lovely version of ‘Angels Heap’. And that is that, so far, for the remarkable Finn brothers; no doubt there will be more and I shall probably buy it too.