Monday, January 7, 2008

Liam Finn

There’s yet more talent in the Finn family. Liam Finn, the 24-year-old son of Neil Finn from Crowded House, has a debut solo album, Ill Be Lightning, and it’s extraordinary. He has some of his father’s gift for concise, Beatles-esque melody, but like many younger singer-songwriters, his guiding star seems to be Elliott Smith: this is way wistful and way delicate, and I’m happy to report that while Liam seems to have a thing for lo-fi recording (or at least studio tricks that mimic it), he doesn’t get bogged down by gimmicks. Ill Be Lightning was released in New Zealand last summer, but it’s just getting its wide release now.

When I reviewed the latest Crowded House album, I noted the cloud of mortality and frustration that hung over it. While never direct, the lyrics (“Nobody wants to think about it/Nobody wants to talk about it”) suggest that the band, or at least Neil, was still dealing, two years later, with the suicide of Paul Hester, the band’s original drummer and a veteran of Split Enz.

One of the best songs on Liam’s album is “Gather to the Chapel,” and after a few listens I realized that it is another pained and shattered remembrance of Hester. It describes him as sort of a favorite uncle who took a dark turn, and I find it touching how Liam characterizes the depression as inexplicable yet understandable:

Your photo hung over the altar
Old friends dressed in black
It’s the first time I’ve seen you in ages
Hold on my old time bomb

When everyone gather to the chapel, to the chapel
Everyone loved you, yes everyone

I walk through the park where we hung out
Saw signs long ago
Try hard not to argue the obvious
Hold on our long term partner

Everyone gather to the chapel, to the chapel
Everyone loved you, yes everyone

You left us in the dark to cry

I plan to talk about it on WFUV on Jan. 22, the day it comes out in the U.S. on Yep Roc.

(Lyrics via this person.)

UPDATE: Review on WFUV, alongside Cat Power’s latest.

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