Neil Finn – “Dizzy Heights” – A (distorted) review…

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So, I was asked recently about my affection for Neil Finn and his music. “Why? What is it about him?” – I shrugged my shoulders and said I wasn’t overly sure.

Truth is though, I lied. I do know exactly what it is about Neil Finn and it’s kept me with him for over 20 years.

It is multi-faceted and not something easily explainable, but deep down, I know.

His voice, his melody’s, his lyrics, his energy, his banter on stage, his wit (Which can be seen in the next 2 brilliant clips), his sincerity, I could go on.

His songs give me comfort, they bring me joy.

At live gigs, time stands still and I lose myself there. Immersed. I connect. I have a connection.

It’s all I ask from any artist, but with Neil Finn, solo or other, I connect deep.

Now, the thing is… Neil Finn’s songs just do not lend themselves for instant reviews. They never have and I doubt they ever will.

Even the more immediate tunes that grab you have a subtle tendency to reveal something new and fresh after more than a few listens – sometimes after more than a few years. I am aware of that, but I wanted to say something about “Dizzy Heights”, his new solo offering.

So, I figured I would leave it a while and then get my thoughts down – but however I tried, what I wrote was neither objective nor really a review.

And as a self-confessed diehard fan, my view of “Dizzy Heights” is already distorted because I love the man and accept that for every song I love, there will be a few that miss the target and you know what, I even find things I like in those.

With that in mind, I stopped writing a review and decided to see where the songs would take my mind. I have been using a lot of Finn’s music as soundtracks and inspiration to my words for a long time now, so between poetry, a gig review and a late night emotional rant, I have managed to use all bar one song on “Dizzy Heights”. The links to these are below.

Now, as an aside and before you click the links,  there are only a few people I speak to that even know who he is, let alone his music that has endured for the best part of 30 years.

Neil Finn is a singer / songwriter from New Zealand and via Split Enz, Crowded House, Finn Brothers and Pajama Club – alongside other projects such as the collaborative Seven worlds collide – you will know a lot of his songs, you may just not realise it was him.

Never did a tag line “You know more Crowded House songs that you think you do” really and truly describe a best of CD. It was spot on and Recurring Dream (The original best of CD) was pretty much catapulted to the top of the UK charts on the back of that piece of clever marketing. Crowded House was / is Neil’s main musical vehicle, but despite recording a few tracks for the next CD, the band are on hold for a while.

In the meantime, Finn has been active working on “Dizzy Heights”, his 3rd solo offering behind “Try Whistling This” and “One Nil” (not including One All for this)

However, Neil’s last release was neither solo nor Crowded House, it was a collaboration with his wife Sharon and a guy called Sean Donnelly on the LO-FI project “Pajama Club”.

It was a fusion of drum and bass with electronica added on top. The songs were not the classic sound fans were used to, from either the song writing, to the texture or to the sound.

Hooks and melody were replaced by a driving, thumping soundtrack that did it’s best to be everything Crowded House wasn’t.

Yet, that wasn’t a bad thing and it spawned a few tracks that were pretty damn good by any standards. “From a Friend to a Friend”, “Deadleg”, “Diamonds in her Eyes” and “Golden Child” may have had a different “Finn” sound that split the fans, but were more than worthy additions to the Finn back catalogue.

And it’s clear that “Dizzy Heights” is a continuation of sorts from this CD – more evolution than revolution – where the songs on Pajama Club had the feel that they really were contrived in the Finn living room over a few bottles of wine – “Dizzy Heights” goes that next step.

With the rest of the family on the CD, Wife Sharon and sons Liam and Elroy, Neil has managed to put together a remarkable CD with the help of producer David Fridmann. Lush string arrangements and weird electronic twists compliment the vocals all the way through the CD and my word, they certainly add an amazing dimension to the sound.

The songs themselves feel more in the mould that the fan base is used to. Sparse lyrics on Pajama Club replaced by something more substantial, whichever way Neil has constructed and found them.

Now, fans have already been treated to stripped back versions of a few songs on this CD. Webcasts and showcases with Victoria Kelly and a string section have featured just Neil on piano and some percussion joining in to create some stunning, heartfelt and wonderful versions of the songs.

However, Neil had warned people that the final songs would be different and he is of course correct – from my listening perspective, it’s on a win most, lose a couple basis, but it continues to unfold with each listen.

So, in running order, please click the link to hear the songs and read my words. Some of the poetry is dark, as is my natural way – check out this link –  and if you are interested, there is plenty more Split Enz, Crowded House, Pajama Club and solo songs within the blog, so feel free to have a look around.

Impressions: https://eyewillnotcry.wordpress.com/2014/02/12/this-disguise-fooling-no-one/

Dizzy Heights: https://eyewillnotcry.wordpress.com/2013/11/18/smoke-drifting-up-to-the-dizzy-heights/

Flying in the face of Love: https://eyewillnotcry.wordpress.com/2013/11/16/flying-in-the-face-of-love/

Divebomber: https://eyewillnotcry.wordpress.com/2013/11/15/and-theres-only-one-way-down/

Better than TV: https://eyewillnotcry.wordpress.com/2014/04/06/at-the-end-of-the-world-its-just-you-and-me/

Pony Ride: https://eyewillnotcry.wordpress.com/2014/03/25/he-only-wants-to-get-you-out-of-your-mind/

White Lies and Alibies: https://eyewillnotcry.wordpress.com/2014/03/18/holding-on-to-nothing-sacred/

Recluse: https://eyewillnotcry.wordpress.com/2014/02/26/i-just-want-to-be-alone/

Strangest Friends: https://eyewillnotcry.wordpress.com/2014/03/22/and-they-take-your-souls-away/

In my Blood: https://eyewillnotcry.wordpress.com/2013/12/01/how-i-wish-that-i-could-do-this-again/

Finally, the only song that I didn’t touch was “Lights of New York” and it can be found below.

I hope you enjoy!

Cheers

 

“When tomorrow comes, we may not be here at all”…

Hearts full of darkness…

Thoughts of pure lust…

Feeling so restless…

Abusing the trust…

Tired of weaving a web…

Of lies and deceit…

“It’s time” they said…

No more need to be discreet…

Escaping their chains…

Shattered worlds left behind…

Scribbled letter explains…

Their reasons outlined…

The further they travelled…

The heavier their load…

Their lives became unravelled…

Down the ice covered road…

The bend came so quick…

No time to adjust…

Brakes would not stick…

The lovers began to combust…

Hells fire consumed…

Two souls now gone…

In the ice they’re entombed…

Dark whispers at dawn…

“Rain fall from concrete coloured skies…”

When it comes to driving, like most, I probably think I am better than I actually am. I have been doing it since 1989ish, so you would think I would be like the Stig by now, but such is life. You fall into little habits, you get easily distracted and there is always someone out there with the capacity to ensure the Red mist descends!

Since THIS happened – I have tried to alter the way I drive. I take as much care as possible and of course, the price of petrol means that I am trying to take my foot off the pedal more. However, even when driving “well” – I still got caught speeding. Before Christmas, coming back from a gig in Manchester at around midnight, I was flashed by a hidden camera.

I was astonished, as I was smugly doing 38 in a 40 zone – so assumed it was a mistake? Only to find out in due course that it was a 30 zone and I was banged to rights. My choice was a fine and 3 points or to pay through the nose and go on a speed awareness course.

I took the latter in fear of an insurance hike – after all, its not that they need much of an excuse lately.  So there I was last night, in a hotel foyer that was teaming with people on the same course. The group was so large (over 50), it had to be split into 2 rooms! It was a mixed bunch, but honestly more women than men and all with a look of naughty school kids on their faces.

Coffee and biscuit in hand, people hardly spoke to each other. Just looked a their shoes, or played with their phones. No one wanted to be there – no one wanted a 4 hour ear bashing about how “Speed Kills”! No ID, no entry. If  your names not on the list, you are not coming in. It was hard not to raise a smile at the militarised process.

We sat in rows, names put on place cards and awaited further instructions. “Off go your phones” was order number one, mainly due to the fact they “sometimes” get famous people in and they don’t want to have photos taken and put on twitter etc.  Then it was down to business and we were in the hands of 2 fellas who have clearly done this so many times, it was too easy for them.

You simply need to think of an older looking Martin Freeman & a plump Lee Mack with a thick Barnsley accent. It was going to be a long night, the only thing needed was the Chuckle brothers to join then for a “to me, to you” sketch. With the best will in the world, this was going to be a long few hours.

The course basically wanted a commitment for you to change your ways. It was like the automotive version of Scrooge, only the ghosts coming in the form of emotional guilt by the bucket load. We had a refresher on road signs. A easy guide to working out the speed limit and a reminder that we all once had a book called the “Highway Code”.

However it was the hard hitting stuff that did the trick. Videos of a kid getting knocked over at a school. A mother who had lost her son to a careless speeder and a sobering 45 minutes on how you would cope if you lost your license, your job, your income and went to prison for killing someone – the effects it would have on not just you, but those around you too.

As a father, it was hard to be cynical. It was hard to not see it as a wake up call, even if for the most part though you knew that’s what it was designed to do. Amongst the group was the odd character – 60 year old Kev and his MG had a need for speed and it wasn’t his fault he sped. These “Modern Cars” want to go fast. It was comedy fodder for the Chuckle brothers.

They clearly couldn’t believe their luck and they picked him off like a pair of raptors! Lee Mack took the final hour for Hazard Perception and notched up the comedy to get his points across. If ever there was somebody in the wrong job, I mean if John Bishop can sell out arenas, Barnsleys “King of Comedy”, could surely do the same!

Still, his insistence that a branch could fall off a tree at “Anytime” was surely nothing more than a time filler. Though he did force an unexpected smile when he managed to mention Russia and how Russian road signs were “unreadable”. No idea how that got into his talk, but it was a small irony not lost on me and one that made me smile.

By the end, I had learned my lesson. Will I speed again – probably, but I will do my utmost not to speed in built up areas. Could I live with killing someone – No – how would I feel if a speeder killed Ollie – Devastated – so from that point of view, it was time well spent. Yet I didn’t need to spend £85 and near on 5 hours to learn that.

However, it was an interesting distraction and another example of how every action we make has a consequence. So where do I tie in todays music – well, its going to be driving related and – shock, it’s a female singer! You may remember I said THIS – However, I neglected to mention the beautiful Bic Runga. Bics voice is sublime and this is the most evocative “Drive”…

Enjoy…