Saturday, October 13, 2012

Neil Finn 1: Try Whistling This

After Crowded House disbanded, Neil Finn found himself without a band for the first time in decades. So rather than start over with a new combo, he worked from the ground up, mostly on his own, embracing new technology to explore his more experimental side.
The first thing we hear on Try Whistling This is a primitive drum machine, which continues under the pleasantly picked acoustic guitar and sunny melody of “Last One Standing”. Altogether, a good start. “Souvenir” is reminiscent of the lo-fi experiments on the Finn Brothers album, right down to the octave harmonies. With a keyboard and verse right off a ‘70s Eno track, “King Tide” is off-putting at first, but once the other instruments come in, the song rises. Following the moody title track, which comes into its own during the last minute or so, the album’s clear highlight is “She Will Have Her Way”, which could have been a smash hit nationwide had it only gotten airplay. If it wasn’t so slow, maybe “Sinner” would have impressed some programmer, based as it is around a cocktail piano and strings loop.
Knowing how these musical geniuses come up with ideas, we’re going to assume “Twisty Bass” was a working title that stuck. Whatever the story, it’s too long and draggy to keep interest. Luckily, “Loose Tongue” sports one of those infectious riffs; if not for the modern effects, it could be a Crowded House track, and it’s got a cool coda too. “Truth” and “Astro” are further buried gems, and much more straightforward than the middle of the album, but he dumps out the effects bag for “Dream Date”, which is otherwise catchy. “Faster Than Light” suggests that he and R.E.M. were listening to some of the same producers for ideas around the same time. Finally, “Addicted” wanders around a simple tack piano, before winding slowly down to a stop.
Try Whistling This was underwhelming upon release, for those of us still stuck in the sunny power pop of the House. It’s improved in retrospect, with many melodies emerging from the murk. Kudos to him for taking the chance.

Neil Finn Try Whistling This (1998)—3

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