Musical Elective of the Week

May 28, 2008 | Blog

The Musical Elective of the Week is Neil Finn.

My family and friends are, of course, saying “What took you so long?” (and Sara is probably rolling her eyes). They know that Neil Finn is my favorite artist. And he is completely and utterly underappreciated — especially in America. Finn is one of those rare talents who combines songwriting mastery and musicianship. He’s a master pop craftsman, penning intelligent, personal, and provocative lyrics and pleasing your ear with fantastic melodic hooks. And he’s been doing it successfully for three decades.

Neil Finn (who turned 50 today) is best known as the co-founder and lead singer/songwriter of the band Crowded House. The Crowdies, as they affectionately are known in Australia, formed in 1985 and wound down in 1996, but re-formed last year.

In Australia and New Zealand, Crowded House is a multi-platinum band, selling out stadium dates, and headlining last summer’s Live Earth concert in Australia. In Europe, they are also mega-stars; for example, in 1994, Crowded House was named the BRIT Awards International Group of the Year–ahead of U2, Nirvana, Pearl Jam and R.E.M.

What made the Crowdies special was not only Finn’s songwriting and musical prowess but also the stage presence and musical skills of the lads, including co-founder and drummer Paul Hester (whose life ended far too soon in 2005) and bassist Nick Seymour. The current line-up of Crowded House also includes Mark Hart, who joined the band prior to their 1994 album, and Matt Sherrod who replaced Hester as the band’s drummer.

Crowded House’s eponymous debut album was released in 1986 and offered up two top 10 U.S. hits, “Don’t Dream It’s Over” and the radio friendly “Something So Strong.” They never reached such heights again in the states, lost amidst the grunge and rap of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Crowded House’s second album, Temple of Low Men, was a critical success but a commercial disappointment, but includes such fantastic tracks as “Into Temptation,” “When You Come,” and “Better Be Home Soon.”

Woodface, the third album, was released in 1991 and made the band certifiable stars in Europe. For this album, Tim Finn–Neil’s older brother–joined the band as an official member and co-penned a number of the tracks. It includes the stellar singles, “Fall At Your Feet,” “Weather With You,” “Four Seasons In One Day,” and “It’s Only Natural.” Crowded House’s fourth album, Together Alone, was released in 1994. It includes the track “Locked Out” (featured in the film Reality Bites) and the international hits “Distant Sun” and “Private Universe.” After closing the first chapter of the band in 1994 with a “Farewell To The World” concert before nearly a quarter million fans on the steps of the Sydney Opera House in 1996, Crowded House released Recurring Dream: The Very Best of Crowded House.

Crowded House reformed in early 2007 and released its fifth album, Time On Earth, later that year. The band’s first studio album in fourteen years, it features the singles “Don’t Stop Now” and “She Called Up.”

Finn is a Kiwi, a native and current resident of New Zealand. He got his start at the ripe old age of 18 in his big brother Tim‘s new wave band Split Enz. In 1980, Neil actually helped launch the group into the pop stratosphere with its hit “I Got You” off the album True Colours.

In addition to being a band leader, Finn is also a solo artist. He has released two solo albums–Try Whistling This (1995) and One All (2002)–as well as a live album, Seven Worlds Collide, featuring a band including Eddie Vedder (of Pearl Jam), Johnny Marr (of The Smiths and currently of Modest Mouse), Ed O’Brien and Phil Selway (of Radiohead), Sebastian Steinberg (of Soul Coughing) and Lisa Germano.

Finn also has also released two albums–Finn (1995) and Everyone Is Here (2004)–with brother Tim under the moniker of the Finn Brothers. Stand-outs from the first album include “Suffer Never” and “Angel’s Heap”, and not to be missed from the brothers’ second album are “Won’t Give In” and “Part Of Me, Part Of You.” The albums fully capture the vocal harmonies between the two brothers that made such Woodface-era Crowded House tracks as “Weather With You” and “It’s Only Natural” so special.

And talent apparently runs in the family. Neil’s son, Liam Finn, was named as one of 10 artists to watch for 2008 by Rolling Stone magazine. (Hmmm … that could be a whole other Musical Elective!)

Happy listening….

——

Extra Credit — Past Musical Electives of the Week:
Ray LaMontagne
Stuart Stotts
Dan Wilson
Kathleen Edwards

3 Comments

  1. Reply

    Vansa

    June 1, 2008

    I have to laugh at the random ways in which I find your blog, and I appreciate the insight--both on music and current issues in education--every time. I'm a HUGE fan of Neil Finn, before I even heard his stuff with The Crowdies, and Liam Finn is brilliant, too (that's how I found your blog this time, by the way--through a search on Neil, Tim, and Liam). Keep the musical electives coming! Have you heard Lucy Kaplansky or Eliza Gilkyson, by the way?

  2. Reply

    Dave

    July 9, 2008

    That's a great post for a great artist. Only recently got into CH, but they've some great songs. We've got "Into Temptation" as song of the day today on thishereboogie.com - you can read the little article here.

  3. Reply

    Liam Goldrick

    July 9, 2008

    Dave, thanks for the comment. Neil Finn is my favorite musician and he's been at it since the late '70s. Not bad work.

    Vansa - I've heard of Kaplansky, but not Gilkyson. Will have to listen when I've got a moment.


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