In the nine years since their first album hit the streets (and I was a bit of an early adopter too, snatching up an import copy months before a North American distribution deal was even hinted at), it seems I’ve had a bit of a hard time selling everyone on the merits of The Finn Brothers as an act unto themselves. And y’know, it wasn’t Crowded House’s Woodface, and it wasn’t Split Enz reborn, it was its own unique, rough-hewn entity. Even if you’d heard everything that either Tim or Neil Finn had done before, the original Finn Brothers album was not something that any of that had prepared you for.
With Everyone Is Here, however, there’s a much more obvious polish to the whole thing – and in the finest tradition of the aforementioned gem of a Crowded House album, the whole thing was, for all intents and purposes, recorded twice over. Everyone Is Here was originally recorded in an upstate New York studio under the auspices of legendary producer Tony Visconti, but apparently the brothers changed their minds, scrapping everything except Visconti’s string arrangements on several songs and re-recording the lot with Mitchell Froom, who produced all but one Crowded House album, as well as Tim Finn’s third solo album and worked on Neil’s most recent solo outing, One Nil / One All.
The first single, “Won’t Give In”, is a radio-friendly mid-tempo affair heavy on Neil vocals, and it sets the tone for the album as a whole – hopeful, wistful, and concerned (not unlike the aforementioned Neil solo outing) with matters of home, hearth and heart. It’s catchy – but ultimately eclipsed by several other songs on the album when the whole thing is listened to in one sitting.
“Nothing Wrong With You” sports some of the best brotherly harmonies on the whole CD and a lush orchestral backing for what is, on the surface, a rather folky little number. “Anything Can Happen” is more of a thumping rocker, while “Luckiest Man Alive” comes closest to the loosely-arranged charms of the original Finn Brothers album – the harmony’s still there, but everything’s much looser, more like an off-the-cuff jam than the rest of the album.
If there’s anything that caught me off guard with Everyone Is Here, it’s that a number of the songs reminded me less of Crowded House and more of Split Enz. It seems to be primarily the songs driven by Tim Finn that do this, and “Homesick” may well be the Enziest song on the album, with the strings and vocals in the chorus strongly echoing the Judd-era Enz chestnut “Spellbound” – for all I know, with the song’s theme of returning home, Tim may have deliberately steered the song in that direction as a thematic element of coming full circle. It’s a great song on its own, with some dreamy harmonies in the chorus and soaring orchestral elements contrasting a series of raw and raucous verses.
“Disembodied Voices”, apparently the sole survivor of the original New York recording sessions with Tony Visconti, is a soft-pedaled folksy affair with mandolin and banjo – the latter played by Neil, an ability I’m not aware that he’d demonstrated before now. It’s an interesting little song, nicely produced, and leaves me wondering what happened that sent the Finns scrambling back to the safety net of Mitchell Froom.
“A Life Between Us” has the confident gait of a 50s rock ballad, and it’s primarily a Neil song – there’s not much evidence of Tim until halfway through the song, when a nice harmonic break reminding me a little of the bridge from the Crowded House song “Everything Is Good For You” brings both voices into play. “A Life Between Us” and “Disembodied Voices” also have slightly unusual lyrics – it’s rare for the Finns to pen lyrics that directly address their brotherly relationship, and even rarer for them to put two songs back-to-back that do that.
“All God’s Children” is a gleeful, distorted-guitar romp with another increasingly rare phenomenon – some classic throat-thrashing vocals from Tim. The next song is a shock to the system, chasing an unabashed rocker down the ornate ballad “Edible Flowers” (which many of us first heard on the Seven Worlds Collide concert DVD). I’d loved this song since that rather rough live performance hit my ears, and here the song comes into its own with a beautiful orchestral backing and a perfect vocal balance between Tim (in the verses) and Neil (in the absolutely soaring choruses). “Edible Flowers” may well be the best song on this whole album – everything just seems to click on this one.
A couple of Tim-heavy tunes, “All The Colours” and “Part Of Me, Part Of You”, bring back some really unusual chords and writing, and again on some intangible level they conjure up the Enz songwriting ethos in my mind. Part of me is thinking “well, duh, same vocalists, same songwriters, of course it sounds like the Enz,” but I still can’t shake the feeling that these are the Enziest songs that the Finns have turned out in ages. “Part Of Me, Part Of You” also bears a strong resemblance to a classic Crowdies tune – if you listen closely, the chords in the verses are almost the same as those in “Walking On The Spot”, only going much faster! That song also has a lyric – “we’ll still be here / when the cows come home” – which got a laugh out of me. I suppose it could be seen as trite, but compared the usual lyrical sophistication we get out of the Finns, it’s got shock value with a touch of humor.
Tim and Neil both have a habit of ending albums on a slow but hopeful note (well, okay, maybe “Kiss The Road Of Rarotonga” doesn’t really bear that pattern out), and they do so again here with “Gentle Hum”, a song with a Neil lead vocal and a mostly hummed chorus. This song also has electronic percussion that, while it doesn’t really stick out enough to distract from the other instrumentation, seems slightly at odds with the rest of the song’s stripped-down, folky sound. That’s really venturing into nitpicking territory though – it’s a fine song, and a great one to go out on.
- Won’t Give In (4:21)
- Nothing Wrong With You (4:12)
- Anything Can Happen (3:05)
- Luckiest Man Alive (4:00)
- Homesick (3:50)
- Disembodied Voices (3:42)
- A Life Between Us (3:55)
- All God’s Children (3:49)
- Edible Flowers (4:53)
- All The Colours (2:13)
- Part Of Me, Part Of You (3:31)
- Gentle Hum (4:38)
Released by: Nettwerx (North America) / Parlophone (everywhere else)
Release date: 2004
Total running time: 46:14