One of the most consistently solid songwriters of recent times (who doesn’t really get the props he deserves) has been Neil Finn. I’ll admit to not being familiar with Split Enz (an issue I hope to rectify soon enough), but whether solo, recording with his brother Tim, part of the 7 Worlds Collide collective or as part of Crowded House, I think he’s the singer/songwriter for whom the term “Beatle-esque” can most readily be applied. And although there might be some folks out there who don’t dig the Fabs, to me, John & Paul set the standard for modern-day pop/rock songwriting.
What Finn specializes in is what I like to call hopeful melancholy. Most of my favorite Crowded House songs combine a touch of sadness with a touch of triumph. It’s like a therapeutic cry, or a wistful tear in the eye when thinking of a memory or future plans. It’s an emotional mixture that gets me every time and is in full effect on Crowded House’s sixth studio album (and second since returning a couple years ago following over a decade off) “Intriguer”.
From the second you hear that choirboy voice after the unusually propulsive introduction to lead track, “Saturday Sun”, you know you’re at home. Said voice has gained a bit of roughness associated with age (after all, Neil is 52 now), but it’s still clear and man, the melodies this guy writes! From “Isolation”, which starts in typical CH fashion but veers off into guitar freakout land courtesy of Neil’s son Liam (who released a fantastic album of his own a couple years back) to the country-flavored lullaby “Elephants” to “Amsterdam” (which wouldn’t have sounded out of place on “Abbey Road”), nearly every song on “Intriguer” is a winner. Although there is only one “Don’t Dream It’s Over”-esque transcendent moment on the album (the gently loping “Either Side of the World”), there’s also not one skippable track out of the entire 10 song set. Besides, I get the feeling that a few more listens might reveal more transcendent moments that just haven’t had the chance to get under my skin yet.
It’s rare these days to find a band that started recording back in the Eighties and remains as good today as when they started. “Intriguer” won’t offer anything startingly contemporary or disarmingly trendy. Just great singing, thoughtful lyrics, and music that speaks directly to your heart.