Jason Falkner – Bliss Descending

Jason Falkner - Bliss DescendingIt’s been far, far too long since we’ve heard anything new from Jason Falkner that wasn’t attached to a side project of some sort. Touring with his band TV Eye has taken up much of Falkner’s time the past few years, and he has done some interesting solo stuff along the way – Bedtime With The Beatles and a track on the Lynne Me Your Ears ELO/Jeff Lynne tribute collection, among other things. And there have been what seems like a half dozen releases of Falkner’s B-sides and demos along the way – all to cater to fans who are eagerly awaiting more solo work from the man himself. At long last, Bliss Descending brings us an all-too-brief taste of what Jason Falkner has been up to in his own studio.

Weighing in at only five songs, Bliss Descending is really surprisingly understated. Oddly enough, its standout track, the lively and very ELO-esque “Lost Myself” doesn’t hit until the end of the EP, and I had to go back and listen to the first four tracks all over again because that one song is so catchy, it immediately washes the others away. Not that they’re not good songs, but “Lost Myself” is that good – it’s the kind of tune that turns somewhat rational folks like me into fans rabid enough to pick up all of those demo/B-side collections, hoping for some lost gem like this one.

“The Neighbor” kicks things off strongly, but it has some fairly weak and repetitive lyrics; it’s a good song that needs a stronger set of words. “They Put Her In The Movies”, “Feeling No Pain” and “Moving Up” are decent songs, but, at the risk of making an unfair comparison, there’s nothing that really knocks the door down, walks in and makes you sit up and take notice on the order of “I Live” or “She Goes To Bed” or “Honey”. At least not until the last track, which stands up nicely alongside any of those.

4 out of 4Still, I’m prepared to recommend this one to you, because a fair-to-middling Jason Falkner tune is better than quite a few artists’ best. If you’re wondering why I keep coming back to this guy’s work over and over again in theLogBook.com’s music review section, check out Bliss Descending – it’s an inexpensive gateway into Falkner’s other work, which also happens to rock.

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  1. The Neighbor (4:31)
  2. They Put Her In The Movies (3:44)
  3. Feeling No Pain (4:58)
  4. Moving Up (5:07)
  5. Lost Myself (4:01)

Released by: Wreckchord Records
Release date: 2004
Total running time: 22:27

Daniel Gannaway – Darling One Year

Daniel Gannaway - Darling One YearIf you need evidence that there’s still a “wandering minstrel,” for lack of a better term, out there in the increasingly studio-bred world of music, allow me to present Daniel Gannaway as proof that the breed’s not extinct. The New Zealand-based musician logged studio time for his latest album in Ireland, Amsterdam, and NZ itself, all while working the road as a gigging musician. What has emerged from that work is Darling One Year, a tasty masterpiece of low-key mood that picks up the best stylistic experiments of his previous album and runs with them.

Of that previous album, I remember saying that Gannaway needed someone to hit the skins for him, and indeed on this outing he’s assembled a nice little group of fellow musicians to fill out the sound with some real live drums and bass. Gannaway’s voice, often processed and a bit ethereal, wafts over the proceedings – if anything, the best example on Bound & Suburban to which I could compare Darling One Year‘s vocals would be “Achilles”, where it sounded like the vocals were being driven through a flange pedal; in some cases on Darling One Year‘s heavier numbers, the vocals sound like they’re going through a guitar distortion pedal or some similar effect, and while the effects are never out of place with the songs, every once in a while it makes it a little hard to hear what’s actually being sung.

And that’s really my only quibble (and it’s a small one at that) with Darling One Year, because the lyrics are worth hearing – they’re often pointed and topical. The title track takes a first-person view of the oscurity of being an independent musician, and there’s no Bon Jovi waffle about riding a steel horse to be found here, but there’s no regret or bitterness to it either. “Student Debt Sucks” is funny and yet has a bubbling-just-under-a-boil rant going at the same time, with a great lyrical turn of phrase in “lending you astray.” Lyrically, the best song on here by miles is “Chain”, railing against bigotry and war and offering a philosophical comment about how every life is essentially a string of one-on-one encounters of one kind or another, any one of which could break said chain. “See The Light” offers a wry commentary on door-to-door evangelism (and here I thought that was a uniquely American phenomenon). And bookending things nicely, the last track, “A Small Thankyou”, is exactly as advertised.

4 out of 4Darling One Year is some excellent music that, hopefully, can get a wider audience by word-of-mouth. Daniel Gannaway’s unique style of filtering folk influences through modern recording techniques makes for quite a compelling listen, and it certainly doesn’t hurt that he writes some damn good songs too. I’m pretty sure I said this about his previous release too, but I’ll repeat it here – if you only indulge in one independent release this year, Darling One Year would make a fine pick.

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  1. Darling One Year (4:17)
  2. Student Debt Sucks (3:40)
  3. Julie (4:50)
  4. Gotta Drive (3:47)
  5. In The North Sea (4:44)
  6. Laughing Free (3:56)
  7. Chain (3:39)
  8. See The Light (4:26)
  9. Ecstasy Lovers (4:47)
  10. A Small Thankyou (3:21)

Released by: Daniel Gannaway
Release date: 2004
Total running time: 41:30

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Brian Wilson – Smile

Brian Wilson - SmileI can’t possibly say something about the provenance and evolution of this album that hasn’t been said elsewhere, and I don’t have the musical knowledge to critique it professionally, so I won’t try. I will, however make a few observations from the perspective of a music lover.

When was the last time you heard an album that you just didn’t feel you could skip through? Smile is an album of pure Americana – very unfashionable, if not somewhat rude these days. But Smile neither sugar-coats nor apologizes for its theme. It’s not nostalgia.

“Rock, rock, roll Plymouth Rock roll over
Ribbon of concrete – just see what you done –
Done to the church of the American Indian!”

or

“Who ran the iron horse?
Have you seen the Grand Coulee workin’ on the railroad?”

Sentiments like these find easy perch among the America-basher subculture often found in hemp stores and the like, but that crowd will have a hard time embracing this album. Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks have created an album which embraces all of America – the good and the bad, the beautiful, the glorious, the oppressive, and the grim.

All of the songs are short. Of course the album was for the most part written in a time when singles had to be less than 3:30 to get airplay, but many of the pieces are around 2 minutes. And each piece is filled with changes in key, tempo, production sound, instrumentation, and even melody.

The song “Old Master Painter” is a solo cello introduction and single verse of “You Are My Sunshine” performed in a minor key through a vox box. At just over a minute in length, on any other album it would be a bridge piece. Here it’s a scene in a sprawling mural. This is a true concept album, and the bridges occur in the songs themselves.

Musical influences? They’re vast and varied. The entire album is sprinkled with the open harmonies which created the Beach Boys, but it would be more surprising if it weren’t. One note – if you’ve heard Brian Wilson in the last 20 years, you’ve noticed that his voice has thickened. I don’t know if the cause is drugs or just living. You can hear that thickness here. For that single reason, I think this album might have sounded better had it been recorded in 1966.

But listening to the album you hear Gershwin, Pink Floyd from the Syd Barrett days (there are some scary similarities to pieces like “Arnold Layne” and “See Emily Play”). Aaron Copland’s influence is apparent, but that’s almost a requisite for a musician toying with Americana.

There’s also a surreal relationship which is hard to keep straight. You can listen to “I’m In Great Shape” and hear orchestration reminiscent of Supertramp, then you remember he wrote this a decade or more before Roger Hodgson. “Vega-Tables” has elements which are pure They Might Be Giants, but again this actually predates TMBG by 30 years. Come to think of it, a lot of this sounds like TMBG, both in song structure and lyrics, to wit:

“I threw away my candy bar and I ate
The wrapper. And when they told me
What I did, I burst into laughter.”

This album could almost have been written by XTC, but Andy Partridge was barely out of diapers when it was written. And of course Partridge would be hard-pressed to write an album of Americana.

Lastly this album does one more thing that is perhaps unprecedented in pop music. It turns a song you’ve known your entire life into something completely different. “Good Vibrations” was always the final song of Smile, but we’ve come to know it as the single. As good a single as it is, when you listen to this album you come to realize the song was never complete. I can’t think of another example of something like this. The version here is not substantially different from the version you’ve known. That song was always supposed to be in this album, and once you hear it in this setting you’ll know it immediately.

Rating: 4 out of 4Who would have thought Van Dyke Parks would be back in the forefront of music in 2004? Probably not even him. Brian Wilson and Van Dyke deserve all the attention they’re receiving. They deserve the awards they’re destined to receive for this landmark work, and they deserve to be very proud of this remarkable contribution to American music.

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  1. Our Prayer / Gee (2:09)
  2. Heroes And Villains (4:50)
  3. Roll Plymouth Rock (3:48)
  4. Barnyard (0:58)
  5. Old Master Painter / You Are My Sunshine (1:03)
  6. Cabin Essence (3:31)
  7. Wonderful (2:06)
  8. Song For Children (2:16)
  9. Child Is Father Of The Man (2:18)
  10. Surf’s Up (4:08)
  11. I’m In Great Shape / I Wanna Be Around / Workshop (1:56)
  12. Vega-Tables (2:20)
  13. On A Holiday (2:36)
  14. Wind Chimes (2:52)
  15. Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow (2:27)
  16. In Blue Hawaii (2:59)
  17. Good Vibrations (4:36)

Released by: Nonesuch
Release date: 2004
Total running time: 46:55

R.E.M. – Around the Sun

Around the SunI’ve listened to Around the Sun at least a couple of times a day since the week before it came out, thanks to an online preview stream provided by REMhq.com. It’s lucky for you that I had that much lead time, or else you’d be reading one cranky review right now. This is a slow and subtle album, perhaps too much so for its own good, and there are a few songs that remain outright disappointments. But those repeated listenings have shown me that many of these songs are quite powerful in their simplicity and that Around the Sun is a worthwhile, although flawed, album.

The opening track and first single, “Leaving New York,” is a midtempo track that blends Mike Mills’ piano and Peter Buck’s acoustic guitar to create what at first listen sounds like a straightforward, almost bland melody. But starting with the second verse, Michael Stipe’s vocals begin to layer and overlap, with each layer following a slightly different melody. The result pulls your attention in a number of directions at once, adding emotional urgency and creating the kind of disorientation that appears to be at the heart of the song. It’s a rather impressive accomplishment.

Unfortunately the album goes off the rails with the next song, “Electron Blue,” a repetitive electronics-tinged song that just doesn’t feel like it goes anywhere. “The Outsiders” features a rap by Q-tip as its third verse and is more effective at establishing a mood, but still doesn’t stand out. “Make It All Okay” is another piano-heavy ballad that has some potential, but for the first time I can remember, Stipe’s lyrics just aren’t up to snuff. It sometimes feels like he’s struggling just to fill out the melody with a lot of repeated words and pauses, such as the frequently used “It’s a long . . . long, long road . . . and I don’t know . . . which way . . . to go.” Stipe is usually able to use his melody and inflection to create a feeling such that the words don’t matter as much, but his performance on this track and in a couple of other places on the album just drew my attention to lyrics that seemed banal to me. It’s really a shame because this album does feature very effective use of Mills’ background vocals to create some effective moods.

That said, there are many places where he’s up to his usual standard. “Final Straw” is where the album begins to reassert itself. Written and initially released on REMhq.com in March 2003 as the invasion of Iraq began, this song combines direct lyrics and a calm, determined performance by Stipe with acoustic guitar and very well done synth/electronic elements to powerful, even haunting effect. I originally preferred the rough studio mix from 2003, but I’ve come to appreciate the album version. Towards the end there’s a high keyboard note in the background that gives the whole thing an almost choral feel; that note has a greater emphasis on the album track and I think that works.

The political tone carries through to the next song, “I Wanted to Be Wrong,” where Stipe says “I wanted to be wrong, but everyone was humming a song I don’t understand,” and “we can’t approach the Allies ’cause they seem a little peeved.” Outside of that last line, the political undercurrent that carries through the album is one you almost have to know to be looking for, because many of these songs could just as easily be about breakdowns in relationships or a more general feeling of social alienation. When you know the subtext, I do think it adds more power to the songs – but then I tend to agree with R.E.M.’s political stances more often than not, and your mileage may vary. Nowhere is this truer than the album’s final track, “Around the Sun” – the first R.E.M. song to be a title track. The song is used over the closing credits of Going Upriver, a movie about John Kerry’s experiences in Vietnam and as a protestor afterward. I don’t know whether or not the song was written about Kerry, but it’s hard for me not to think of him when I hear lines like “give me a voice so strong I can question what I have seen” and “hold on world ’cause you don’t know what’s coming, hold on world ’cause I’m not jumping off.”

rating: 3 out of 4Thematically speaking, the album is very consistent, almost too much so. In addition to the tracks I’ve mentioned, “Boy in the Well” and “High Speed Train” are particularly subdued and contemplative tracks. It’s only on the jaunty “Wanderlust” and the uptempo acoustic number Aftermath that the album brightens up at all, and even these aren’t much of a change of pace. In its melancholy approach, Around the Sun has drawn a number of comparisons to Fables of the Reconstruction and Automatic for the People. But there’s nothing here like the loud, goofy fun of Fables’ “Cant Get There from Here” or Automatic‘s Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite to act as an escape valve. R.E.M. spent a long time recording this album, starting in early 2003, then taking a break for the tour anticipating their best-of album In View, and then returning to the studio this year to finish. In the process, they held off on some of the rockier songs they had been working on because they didn’t fit the feel of the album. I can’t help but wonder if they’d have been better served to just assemble the best collection of songs they could.

Around the Sun is not an album that immediately grabs you, but there’s a lot of very good work here. Like a lot of fans, I’m waiting for R.E.M. to break out of the slower mood they’ve explored in their three post-Bill Berry albums. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to ignore the good work that’s right in front of me. Truth be told, there’s a good chance this album might improve with age; my initial reaction to 1998’s Up was rather subdued, but it’s now one of my favorite albums. It wouldn’t surprise me if songs like “Final Straw” and “I Wanted to Be Wrong” earn Around the Sun a similar status in the future.

Order this CD

  1. Leaving New York (4:49)
  2. Electron Blue (4:12)
  3. The Outsiders (4:14)
  4. Make It All Okay (3:44)
  5. Final Straw (4:07)
  6. I Wanted to Be Wrong (4:35)
  7. Wanderlust (3:03)
  8. Boy in the Well (5:22)
  9. Aftermath (3:53)
  10. High Speed Train (5:03)
  11. The Worst Joke Ever (3:38)
  12. The Ascent of Man (4:07)
  13. Around the Sun (4:28)

Released by: Warner Bros.
Release date: 2004
Total running time: 55:21

Frank Klepacki – Rocktronic

Frank Klepacki - RocktronicFrank K. is back in the house, and this time he’s kicking the doors down and knocking the walls flat. Unlike his solo debut Morphscape, Rocktronic is a little more similar stylistically from track one to track ten. And that’s cool – I loved some of Morphscape‘s more off-the-wall offerings like “Gonna Rock Yo Body” and “Cosmic Lounge”, but if Rocktronic proves anything, it’s that Frank Klepacki’s always got more musical ideas rattling around. And for those of us who learned about his music through his hard-driving accompaniment to some classic Westwood computer games (and I’d hazard a guess that this category probably includes almost everybody reading this), Rocktronic is homecoming week for you – it easily lives up to its name.

And the title should give you a pretty good clue of what to expect. Guitars are to the forefront of Rocktronic, and Klepacki demonstrates some impressive ability at that instrument. The opening volley, “Decible”, lives up to its name. The following track, “Rocktronic”, is probably the best fusion of rock and techno elements on the whole CD, with some mighty crunchy guitar work melding seamlessly with the techno elements. “Escape” feels a little bit like “Mode One” from Morphscape, only more aggressive and drum-driven, but the similarity is in some dandy throwback-to-the-’80s synth work. In Yo Face has both feet firmly in industrial/techno territory, and it’s best appreciated at a level where the speakers rumble the foundation of your house. Seriously. Headphones don’t quite do it justice.

“Take Me” has a very cool, laid back bluesy opening that leads into an extended hard rock jam on the same theme. There’s a nifty ’70s stadium rock guitar solo vibe to the whole thing. It Has Begun is more of an aggressive dance number, with the sampled voice yelling “It has begun!” Mortal Kombat-TV-ad-style hearkening back to some of Frank’s Command & Conquer work. “The Streets” and “In The Tunnel” almost sound like lost cuts from the Lexx music library, which isn’t a bad thing. The Streets has a little more of a Euro/electronica thing going, while “In The Tunnel” has the dramatic intensity of a soundtrack cue bubbling under the surface.

“Machines Collide” has an epic feel that hails back to some of the better Emperor: Battle For Dune tracks, with sampled choral textures and an interesting sonar-as-percussion element that I liked – it’s probably my favorite track on the CD, with “Take Me” running a close second. “Bring The Fight” closes things 4 out of 4out by jumping right back into hard rock territory, which brings us full circle.

On the one hand, I really missed the roller-coaster variety of styles that made Morphscape a lot of fun – but you can’t argue against Rocktronic‘s dominant style being the one that won Klepacki his fan base to begin with, and it’s still great music.

Order this CD

  1. Decible (4:32)
  2. Rocktronic (3:57)
  3. Escape (4:11)
  4. In Yo Face (3:42)
  5. Take Me (4:58)
  6. It Has Begun (4:06)
  7. The Streets (4:02)
  8. In The Tunnel (3:47)
  9. Machines Collide (4:42)
  10. Bring The Fight (4:28)

Released by: Frank Klepacki
Release date: 2004
Total running time: 42:27

Alan Parsons – A Valid Path

Alan Parsons - A Valid PathAlan Parsons is back, that’s the good news. And the bad news? There really isn’t any. Parsons has jettisoned some of his “classic rock” sound and stepped firmly and unquestionably into the 21st century. The result is an album that will hopefully gain Parsons a whole new audience – and considering how much of his longtime fanbase was attracted to the sound of Parsons routinely going further out than the cutting edge 30 years ago, A Valid Path should also be a treat for the folks like me who’ve been hanging around since the 1970s.

And A Valid Path does surprise me in a few places. After those three decades hiding behind the mixing board or a variety of instruments or processing his vocals through a vocoder, Alan Parsons steps out into the limelight and takes a turn at a lead vocal with “We Play The Game”, and lo and behold, the guy’s got a hell of a voice, and it’s almost as smooth as former Alan Parsons Project cohort Eric Woolfson’s. Why he didn’t just come out and sing a long time ago is a mystery. If anything, it’s the one track that most solidly resembles classic Parsons.

There are other links to the past, too. But from the pre-release publicity going into this album’s release, it almost sounded like Parsons was decisively moving away from anything he’d done in the past, with this album’s focus on electronica. P.J. Olsson mixed most of the album, and lent a hand on several tracks, and there are guest appearances by Shpongle, The Crystal Method, Uberzone and Nortec Collective. Even more omipresent than Olsson is Parsons’ son Jeremy, who forges a couple of the albums’ strongest links to the past with from-the-ground-up remakes of classic Project tracks “Mammagamma” (as “Mammagamma ’04”) and the album-opening duo of “Dream Within A Dream” and “The Raven” from the very first Project album (as “A Recurring Dream Within A Dream”). The only people on the album that Parsons has worked with before are David Pack, who co-writes and provides heavily processed vocals on “You Can Run”, and Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour, giving a six-string assist to the opening track, “Return To Tunguska”.

That doesn’t mean that you won’t hear from folks you’re familiar with, though. Of all people, John Cleese briefly appears on the final track, “Chomolungma” (which is a rather obscure local name for Mount Everest, in case you’re wondering). This percussion-heavy track instantly earns a place in the pantheon of Parsons’ widescreen-ready instrumentals, and Cleese doesn’t even show up until nearly seven minutes into the not-quite-eight-minute track.

The much-publicized “electronica” angle can be a bit misleading, though. Olsson’s “More And More Lost Without You” is electronica, but it’s electronica with layers of twangy guitar on top of it. The instrumental “Tijuaniac” is surprisingly jazzy (though Parsons is no stranger to electronic-heavy jazz with such numbers as “Where’s The Walrus?” and “Urbania” in his back catalogue), and “L’Arc En Ciel” is thick with soaring guitar solos. Parsons may have cast off some of his classic-rock-radio-specific sounds, such as the 70s-style electric piano tones that he incorporated as recently as 1993’s post-Project comeback Try Anything Once, but he still brings a lot of the classic rock sensibility to the table, and hearing that together with a genre of music that seems to have an inherent youthfulness about it is an interesting step forward.

4 out of 4Parsons once said in an interview that he’s always making music for today’s listeners, and A Valid Path certainly seems to back that up – but it also doesn’t have anything that’ll alienate long-time listeners who have appreciated Parsons’ constant walk along the cutting edge. Even if you’re chafing at the electronica label, give it a shot – it’s not as far removed from Parsons’ previous works as you might think, and it’s got some fantastic music on it.

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  1. Return To Tunguska (8:49)
  2. More Lost Without You (3:21)
  3. Mammagamma ’04 (5:07)
  4. We Play The Game (5:35)
  5. Tijuaniac (5:30)
  6. L’Arc En Ciel (5:21)
  7. A Recurring Dream Within A Dream (4:12)
  8. You Can Run (3:53)
  9. Chomolungma (7:42)

Released by: Artemis
Release date: 2004
Total running time: 49:35

Finn Brothers – Everyone Is Here

Finn Brothers - Everyone Is HereIn 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.

4 out of 4Tim 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.

Order this CD

  1. Won’t Give In (4:21)
  2. Nothing Wrong With You (4:12)
  3. Anything Can Happen (3:05)
  4. Luckiest Man Alive (4:00)
  5. Homesick (3:50)
  6. Disembodied Voices (3:42)
  7. A Life Between Us (3:55)
  8. All God’s Children (3:49)
  9. Edible Flowers (4:53)
  10. All The Colours (2:13)
  11. Part Of Me, Part Of You (3:31)
  12. Gentle Hum (4:38)

Released by: Nettwerx (North America) / Parlophone (everywhere else)
Release date: 2004
Total running time: 46:14