Tim Finn - The ConversationSome concept albums try to tell a specific story, while, with some concept albums, the “concept” is built around specific musical parameters – we’re only going to use these instruments, or we’re only going to play live with no overdubs. In the case of Tim Finn’s The Conversation, it’s the latter kind of concept album: reuniting with fellow Split Enz alumni Eddie Rayner on piano and Miles Golding on violin, Tim Finn aims for nothing less than a folk-rock version of chamber music.

Now, this isn’t to say that it’s strictly lo-fi. Within that very specific combination of instruments, there are plenty of possibilities for a variety of sounds. The opening track, “Straw To Gold”, ends with a searing duet between violin and electric guitar. “Only A Dream” takes on a dreamy, almost-old-school bluegrass/country flavor with its guitar work. Out of the entire album, only “Forever Thursday” has drums at all. One guest musician brings a special touch to one particular song; “The Saw And The Tree”, which turns out to be an anti-domestic-violence song, features an actual saw solo that, against Golding’s violin work in the background, is positively haunting. The “limited range of instruments” turns out not to be much of a limit at all here.

The presence of Split Enz musicians doesn’t mean that this is a particularly Enz-y album, although it seems as though Finn’s Enz experiences inform the lyrics in many cases. Musically, the closest The Conversation gets to the Split Enz ethos is the light-hearted “Great Return”, and the Enz-iest element of that song is Rayner’s piano work. As Golding was dropped from the Enz lineup very early in the 1970s, when the band went from acoustic to electric, it’s hard to nail any of his performances down as particularly Enz in nature, and even so, there are almost 40 years of professional classical concert performance that stand a slightly better chance of being a musical influence on him. Lyrically, “Fall From Grace” references the Enz song “Maybe” and seems to be Finn’s equivalent of “All Those Years Ago”, while one wonders if “More Fool Me” isn’t a song whose words are pointed at a certain Mr. Judd.

4 out of 4In the end, though, The Conversation is not only uniquely Tim Finn, but it’s fairly unique within Tim Finn’s body of work; I’d be very surprised to hear him do another album in this style, but The Conversation – despite its sparse arrangements – is substantial enough that it’s a very worthwhile detour from Finn’s usual fare.

Order this CD

  1. Straw To Gold (3:57)
  2. Out Of This World (3:01)
  3. The Saw & The Tree (4:04)
  4. Slow Mystery (4:00)
  5. Rearview Mirror (3:43)
  6. Only A Dream (2:31)
  7. Fall From Grace (2:42)
  8. Invisible (3:51)
  9. Snowbound (2:57)
  10. Great Return (3:02)
  11. Imaginary Kingdom (3:17)
  12. Forever Thursday (2:57)
  13. More Fool Me (3:41)

Released by: Capitol
Release date: 2008
Total running time: 43:43