critic’s picks 314: neil finn, ‘dizzy heights’

dizzy heightsNear the midway point of his first solo album in 13 years, Neil Finn offers an affirmation that is both earthy and spiritual. It surfaces, over and over again, in Better Than TV, a love song of real life wrapped in an orchestral wash of sounds and grooves but presented with a slightly askew posture. It’s as though the pop strategies that so beautifully populated the music he has crafted over the decades with Crowded House were tossed in a washing machine and set on the spin cycle so colors would purposely bleed into one another.

Fascinating as the surface design is, it’s the meditation Finn places underneath it all that best defines the restlessness of an enormously prolific, middle aged popster from New Zealand. It’s a plea for risk-taking as a means of personal discovery at an age when one’s surroundings can often seem strangely settled.

“If there is a chance that you wanted to dance, that you wanted to sing, don’t die wondering,” Finn sings. It’s lovely but unobvious moment on an album filled with them.

Finn co-produced Dizzy Heights with Dave Fridmann, whose studio credits include work with The Flaming Lips. That may partly explain the kind of pop turf the record favors. While it is nowhere near as extravagant as the Lips’ costumed psychedelia, Dizzy Heights possesses a lush pop sensibility that isn’t so much orchestrated as it is submerged.

On the album-opening Impressions, a fractured melody oozes along to keep solemn pace with a storyline of civilization in decline (“I guess we can’t keep the world away, from sinking under pressure”). The mood later slows to a glacial grace on Divebomber with Finn singing in a ghostly, nocturnal falsetto.

The pop charge is more direct during In My Blood, a Crowded House-like reverie with a decidedly familial feel. Wife Sharon Finn, along with sons Liam and Elroy, help out, as they do for much of the record, on bass, guitar and drums, respectively. Wilco-ite and University of Kentucky grad Glenn Kotche then provides percussion for the family band.

But that is one of Dizzy Heights’ more accessible moments. Much of the record possesses a more wintry feel (it was recorded in Buffalo, New York, as well as Auckland) and serves as a collage of neo-psychedelic snapshots. Shifting from demo-style immediacy to icy, surrealistic splendor, Dizzy Heights is a tasty document fashioned by a proven pop family man after sneaking out of the House.

Comments are closed.

Terms of Service | Privacy Policy | About Our Ads | Copyright