Liam Finn - I'll Be LightningAs much of a fan of Betchadupa as I’ve been, I’m going to fess up that I wasn’t sure what to expect from Liam Finn’s first solo effort. I’d heard a live recording, and the songs were plenty catchy, but it’s so hard to tell from a live recording what the final product will be like. I needn’t have worried. We are, after all, talking about the son of Neil Finn of Crowded House fame, and after listening to I’ll Be Lightning a lot in recent weeks, I think we can say without reservation that he’s picked up his dad’s ear for crafting a great song and giving it a great performance. And when I credit Liam Finn with the performance, I’m not being disingenuous or oversimplifying things: he plays and sings every note you hear on the album.

Liam’s style is guitar-and-loop-driven, with a kind of lo-fi charm to it. He aims more for atmosphere than for high-end production, so things are occasionally a little bit fuzzy, but not to the point that it doesn’t sound good. The effect is more often mesmerizing than not. I’m going to go out on a limb and nominate “Gather To The Chapel” as the catchiest song on here. There are far faster and more densely-produced tunes on this album, but something about this song is just insanely catchy – I’ve honestly had sessions where I’ve listened to it over and over for a stretch of about half an hour. It’s just so peaceful, and I’ll be damned if I haven’t found myself whistling, singing, or humming it long after the last time I heard it. “Energy Spent” and “Music Moves My Feet” are close runners-up for the catchiest song here, in the finest Finn tradition.

While I love “Gather” and “Music Moves My Feet”, don’t go thinking that everything on here is slow/mid-tempo. “Energy Spent” and “Wise Man” are downright jaunty, while “This Place Is Killing Me” and “Lead Balloon” are balls-to-the-wall rockers. “Second Chance” and “Better To Be” are no slouches either. Young Mr. Finn’s overdubbed vocal harmonies are nothing short of astounding on some of these songs, and he’s got a great range to his singing voice.

The more I listened to I’ll Be Lightning, “Energy Spent” emerged as a song whose lyrics I identified closely with my experiences as a new father. To realize that those lyrics and the accompanying insights, in whatever original spirit they were intended, came from a young man in his twenties, is frankly humbling. I’m not sure I’ve mentioned how much I enjoyed the lyrics as well as the performance of them. To 4 out of 4play an entire album like this entirely solo is the result of hard work, intense concentration, and what may be the best rock ‘n’ roll apprenticeship anyone could hope for. I could go on and on about where I think I hear the influence of Neil or Tim here, but Liam Finn is his own man, and this is his own album, and it’s a fantastic piece of work. With such a well-crafted and polished debut album, Liam has more than earned his own spotlight out from under anyone else’s shadow. This is the best album I’ve heard this year, and I’m not sure I can actually say much more than that.

Order this CD

  1. Better To Be (3:46)
  2. Second Chance (4:52)
  3. Gather To The Chapel (3:20)
  4. Lead Balloon (4:15)
  5. Fire In Your Belly (3:15)
  6. Lullaby (2:02)
  7. Energy Spent (4:08)
  8. Music Moves My Feet (2:24)
  9. Remember When (3:04)
  10. Wise Man (5:17)
  11. This Place Is Killing Me (4:06)
  12. I’ll Be Lightning (4:14)
  13. Wide Awake On The Voyage Home (5:37)
  14. Shadow Of Your Man (2:57)

Released by: Yep Roc
Release date: 2007
Total running time: 53:17