The Finn Brothers: Everyone Is Here
Sound/Style: Left-of-center, multi-textured adult pop/rock
By Steve Morley
(UMCom) – The destinies of brothers Neil and Tim Finn are inextricably intertwined. Tim, the elder, co-formed and soon assumed the lead role in Split Enz, a band that became New Zealand’s most famous musical export after it was embraced by first-wave MTV. By that time, he’d invited Neil into the fold only to watch as the younger brother’s commercial songwriting knack eclipsed Tim’s musical input. It was Neil’s eerie-yet-ecstatic “I Got You” that signaled the beginning of the Enz on the charts, and Neil was the last Finn standing when the group folded in the mid-‘80s, a year or so after Tim’s departure. Neil’s successful group Crowded House insured transcendence from the trendy New Wave scene that had propelled Split Enz, while Tim’s solo releases made only modest dents in the pop consciousness. Tim’s later, short-lived stint in Crowded House added to suspicions that the siblings were not on the best of terms, though 1995’s self-titled Finn Brothers CD quashed such rumors, however lukewarm the CD’s reception by the music-buying public.
Fast-forward to the present. The Finn brothers now have forged a reunion that goes deeper lyrically and emotionally than any previous pairing. Everyone Is Here is their most cohesive and complete collaboration to date, sounding less like Crowded House and more like a new, synergistic entity. Albeit rife with the expansive, airborne melodies that are Neil’s forte, the disc is lent ballast by Tim’s weathered voice and romantic bent, which cuts closer to the heart than House’s off-kilter fare. Even so, meanings are often obscured by the Finns’ maddeningly abstract lyrics (no individual writing credits are listed, adding to the sense of artistic unification). Behind the compelling blend of their two voices are evocative backdrops that meld organic, acoustic sounds including violin and banjo with altered electric guitars and cutting-edge (for pop, anyway) production techniques. All this lends Everyone Is Here the flavor of a mid-life summit that unearths a payload of family- and home-driven feelings and insights as well as intriguing arrangements that require multiple hearings to fully appreciate. Track one, “Won’t Give In,” floats along on atmospheric piano but is anchored by persistent eighth notes that underscore the song’s message of commitment and the importance of connection. “What does it mean when you belong to someone/ when you’re born with a name and you carry it on/it means that I won’t give in, ‘cause everyone I love is here.”
“All The Colours” is a tribute to the duo’s late mother that sidesteps sickly-sweet sentiment with a driving, piano-and-drums-fueled momentum. Its lyrical foundation – the poetic idea that their mother’s memory is a strengthening, unifying force between them – is a notion they extend to the link between generations, home and homeland on “Part Of Me, Part Of You.” “Over these green hills/blue electric light/always in my blood/forever in my eye.”
“Disembodied Voices” skillfully makes a symbol of the brothers’ decades-old conversations in a darkened, shared bedroom, while their still-unfolding relationship is poignantly explored in “A Life Between Us,” which likens the brothers to “banks of a river, staring at each other, and we can’t get any closer.” It’s an apt analogy, except that it isn’t water but blood that runs along those two banks. The creative coagulation that occurs between them results in an out-of-the-ordinary meeting of musical minds on Everyone Is Here, a mature work that unites much of the Finns’ collective past into a fresh but oddly familiar package.
Steve Morley is a freelance music journalist living in College Grove, Tenn.
This review was developed by UMC.org, the official online ministry of the United Methodist Church.