A brief history:
Big brother Tim invites little brother Neil to join his band Split Enz. Neil says ‘I Got You,’ then forms Crowded House, taking Enz drummer Paul Hester along for the ride. Little brother Neil invites big brother Tim to join the “housemates” on 1991’s Woodface album. Brothers bicker. Locks are changed. Tim leaves. Mark Hart replaces him on 1993’s Together Alone. Brothers make amends, releasing side project under the title Finn. A kiss-of-death greatest hits album in 1996 foreshadows the beginning of the end. The house crumbles. Neil leaves CH, creating a big, black hole in the hearts of devoted fans around the world.
And now Neil Finn is back. Out of the house and on his own with a shiny new key which opens Try Whistling This, his first solo record. As the challenging title implies, the songs on this CD don’t exactly bounce right up to the surface with humability. The brilliant hooks that have placed Neil Finn into the songwriting elite are there, only lurking somewhere darker and deeper.
Songs such as “Sinner” and “She Will Have Her Way” are already topping the charts in the UK. Whether these songs will find the radios in the US remains to be seen. Perhaps if someone pulls the intravenous spewing bands like Matchbox 20 and Third-Eye Blind out of our car radios. Crowded House never received the fame and respect in the States that it gained in Europe for 10 years.
“Last One Standing,” “Souvenir,” “King Tide” and “Astro” are vintage Finn; gorgeous harmonies that reassure us that Neil was Crowded House. The slithery “Sinner” has a great smoky groove to it. Other songs “Twisty Bass” and “Loose Tongue” show another side to solo Neil – experimental creepy-chord funk.
Finn is graced by the presence of producers-for-hire Marius De Vries (Bjork, U2) and Nigel Godrich (Radiohead, Beck). Programming guru De Vries adds technological toys to the mix with drum loops on a number of songs. Soul Coughing’s bass player Sebastian Steinberg contributes on several tracks and Midnight Oil’s Jim Moginie also lends a hand, offering his guitar services.
Before hastily spitting it out into the bowels of your CD rack, give these songs a good swirl and gargle. CH faithful who have been spoon-fed five albums worth of beautifully crafted melodies will need to show a little patience on this one. The songs will echo in your skull if you give Neil Finn the benefit of the doubt and answer his whistle challenge.