Stranger than Fiction, Larger Than Life: the Finn Brothers song-by-song discussion thread

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Lance LaSalle, Jan 21, 2019.

  1. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle TEFL Lord Thread Starter

    Location:
    Vsetin
    Today's song is "Burnt Out Tree", written by Neil Finn.

    Spotify: Burnt Out Tree - Home Demo
    This home demo was recorded in 1988-1989 and produced by Neil Finn. It was released on the second disc of the Woodface Deluxe album in 2016.

    A live version was released at the same time on the Temple of Low Men Deluxe album. The links to that are below.

    If a studio version was attempted by Crowded House, it has not been released.
     
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2019
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  2. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle TEFL Lord Thread Starter

    Location:
    Vsetin

    Spotify: Burnt Out Tree - Live

    This song was recorded at the Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles on April 6th, 1989, on what was almost the last night of the band's Temple of Low Men tour of North America.
     
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  3. HitAndRun

    HitAndRun Forum Resident

    @Burnt Out Tree

    This is a good song, and the live version is fun. It has some better bits that in a different reality might have been re-used ("There's only one way to play this game") in another song.

    The arrangement is quite basic, and in an alternate reality would have been worked on.

    Like some other songs, I think it was the right decision to leave it off the album and use the songs that were used.

    3.3/5
     
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  4. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle TEFL Lord Thread Starter

    Location:
    Vsetin
    I like "Burnt Out Tree", though part of me wonders if Neil wasn't just kind of trying to consciously write a replacement for "This is Massive" in the live show, as it has a very similar energy.

    There's a bit of "Twist and Shout" old time Rhythm and Blues in this.

    It's a fairly slight song, but it's got a fun, infectious energy, the chorus really works for me. It also doesn't wear out its welcome at all.
    3.4/5
     
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  5. BeSteVenn

    BeSteVenn formerly mrpleasant, now Steven

    Location:
    Kaskeland
    Burnt Out Tree has a playful energy to it, as if Neil was trying to put the darkness of Temple of Low Men behind him, but the words seem headed down to that same dark place. The melodies in the verse and the chorus are fun, but a bit slight compared to where he usually aims. The words to the verses and the chorus don't really complement each other, it's as though one or the other had to go, and he decided they both needed to go.

    It might have been songs like this one that shook Neil's self-confidence and sent him into a period of writer's block. Still, this is one of those songs that other songwriters would be pleased to come up with, but Neil judged it to be not quite up to his minimum standards, and that's the difference between Neil and those other songwriters: his ability to judge his own work reliably.

    Again, I'm glad we get to hear it (in two versions at that!) because it gives us insight into Neil's creative process. 3.3/5
     
  6. Turk Thrust

    Turk Thrust Forum Resident

    Location:
    U.K.
    This is very throwaway, but I guess Neil could come up with melodies at will by this point. Would have been a good b-side, but no loss that it didn't make Woodface.

    3/5.
     
  7. Paul H

    Paul H Forum Resident

    Location:
    Nottingham, UK
    I love Burnt Out Tree (note that on the fan club CD it was called Play This Game). I can't pin whether my affection for it is amplified by its obscure status, but this is one of those slight works that is just more enjoyable than it ought to be. "Objectively" this isn't as great a song as many that will acquire this score, but my sheer enjoyment of it earns it a 4/5.

    Regarding the Woodface bass issue, I recall watching the Making of Woodface documentary in the hope that more light would be shed on the issue, but the whole thing was skirted around and clouded in (deliberate) vagueness. If I recall, Neil claimed he couldn't remember. To be honest, I'm inclined to believe him given the convoluted nature of the sessions.
     
  8. This tune is catchy as hell, but holy buckets does it sound like a Dukes of Stratosphear tune, especially the demo. I would love to hear that, but I'm pretty sure it's not in the cards.

    4/5 but I don't know if that's based on its musical merits or my intrigue.
     
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  9. jcr64

    jcr64 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Indiana
    After TOLM, it's nice to hear a song from Neil that's both upbeat and not overly fraught (or, in the case of "Sister Madly," somewhat nuts). That said, there's not enough here. The verse is among the least musically interesting I've heard from Neil. I can understand why he decided not to pursue it.

    3/5
     
  10. Jaffaman

    Jaffaman Forum Resident

    Here's the "Burnt Out Tree" 4-track cassette, also with "I May Be Late".
    [​IMG]

    "Fly Away" is an interesting one. It's yet another version of "Fall At Your Feet" with a different chorus. A poor verse, melodically and lyrically, so we left it off the Woodface Deluxe Edition.
     
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  11. StefanWq

    StefanWq Forum Resident

    Location:
    Vallentuna, Sweden
    "Burnt Out Tree" is quite a gem among the home demos. It is very catchy and has great energy, so it's a shame it wasn't developed further than the one and a half minute on the home demo. Now that Lance has mentioned it, I do hear some similarity to "This Is Massive" so that may have been one reason the song didn't get a studio demo. Also, we know there were some tensions between Neil and Nick around this time so that could be another factor.
    This one is one of my favourite home demos on the deluxe editions so I'll give it 3,6/5.
     
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  12. Jaffaman

    Jaffaman Forum Resident

    That's good to hear. I so nearly left it off because it's so basic, especially with that drum machine, but it's undeniably catchy.
     
  13. robcar

    robcar Forum Resident

    Location:
    Denver, CO
    "Burnt Out Tree" is fun and catchy, if too brief to really qualify as a full song. It first appeared on a fan club disc, recorded in Los Angeles in '89 (the same recording that later was featured as a bonus track on the Deluxe Edition reissue of TOLM), and I probably prefer this live version as it has the energy and vitality one would expect. By contrast, the demo (also from 1989) that was included as a bonus track on the Deluxe Edition reissue of Woodface seems rather stilted. I'd probably like this song more if it were a minute or so longer. I assume that if it were truly considered for a possible slot on the next CH studio album, they would have extended it somehow by adding a bridge or an instrumental section or something.

    3.6 for the live version/3.4 for the studio demo
     
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  14. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle TEFL Lord Thread Starter

    Location:
    Vsetin
    Our votes for "Burnt Out Tree":

    1-0
    2-0
    3-6
    4-4
    5-0
    Average: 3.46
     
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  15. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle TEFL Lord Thread Starter

    Location:
    Vsetin
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  16. robcar

    robcar Forum Resident

    Location:
    Denver, CO
    "I May Be Late" was first issued as a bonus track on the Deluxe Edition reissue of Woodface in 2016. It's a song that shows some promise but is still far away from being polished to the level that might have warranted a spot on the third CH album. In particular, the chorus is pretty strong; the verses less so. I don't hear any part of this that was mined for another later song; it seems that it was just abandoned not long after being recorded or attempted with the full band in the studio. Was it ever performed live?

    I'll give this one a 3.2, mostly for that gorgeous melody on the chorus.
     
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  17. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle TEFL Lord Thread Starter

    Location:
    Vsetin
    The lyric doesn't appear to be anywhere, so I've written it down here:

    Your heart's in the right place
    But you're barking up the wrong tree
    It's the other way round
    It looks like a sound to me

    We (?) labour in my hobo living
    Leave our sandals on the beach
    I get carried away
    I get carried far away

    I may be late
    But I will find a way
    to give my love to you soehow
    I must be out of mind
    Even think of saying goodbye now

    Why don't we take a photograph?
    Make it look like someone's else's mess
    Now I'm covered in shame
    I've taken the blame I confess
    It's only now that I"m ready to say
    Maybe I am a fool baby and youre the best
    I get carried away
    I get carried far away

    I may be late
    But I will find a way
    to give my love to you soehow
    I must be out of mind
    Even think of saying goodbye, goodbye, goodbye

    Why don't we take a photograph?
    Make it look like someone's else's mess
    I'm covered in shame
     
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  18. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle TEFL Lord Thread Starter

    Location:
    Vsetin
    I think part of the jangly twelve-sting guitar riff in the left channel (which is very nice) and the way the chorus resolves sounds like "There Goes God" just a bit.
     
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2019
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  19. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle TEFL Lord Thread Starter

    Location:
    Vsetin
    The verse on this one sounds rather tired; I agree with Robcar that the chorus is stronger. this is a fascinating glimpse into Neil's writing process as perhaps certain ideas of this made it into the Finn Brothers composition "There Goes God."

    This is one of those songs that Neil has that has a good atmosphere to it. It's fun to listen to as a glimpse behind the scenes to Woodface but there is little that grabs me musically other than the jangly 12-string. The lyric is a placeholder; I get a sense that Neil wants to go dark with the lyric but he's trying to be as upbeat as possible at the same time; and maybe the whole song kind of suffers from this sort of ambiguity, like Neil is fighting against himself.

    It's amazing how ideas come and get recycled eventually into a song that makes an album. Occasionally there's a "Don't Dream It's Over" or "Love This Life" (or the Finn Brothers demos) that comes out really fully formed, but most of it is a laborious process of creating songs from raw emotion then mining the songs for their most interesting ideas and then synthesizing it all together.

    2.4/5 for me.
     
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  20. Jaffaman

    Jaffaman Forum Resident

    "I May Be Late" is one of my favourites of Neil's home 4-track demos. The verse might be a little unremarkable but that makes the uplifting chorus all the more welcome.

    Lance is probably right about the guitar lick being reused later in "There Goes God". That hadn't occurred to me until now.
     
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  21. Paul H

    Paul H Forum Resident

    Location:
    Nottingham, UK
    My thoughts exactly, Jeremy. I love that chorus, and wish Neil had found a use for it somewhere. Again, a song I like far more than perhaps it's objective quality justifies. Another 4/5 from me.
     
  22. HitAndRun

    HitAndRun Forum Resident

    I seem to agree with everyone that the verse doesn't really cut it but the chorus melody is really nice. This had promise, but it needs a brand new verse. It's a pity that Neil didn't find a way to re-use the chorus, but I would guess Neil's muse leads him to complete some songs and not others. I'm just happy for the wealth of completed songs

    The chorus here is heading to a 4, but the verse brings it down. In my opinion.

    3.0/5
     
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  23. BeSteVenn

    BeSteVenn formerly mrpleasant, now Steven

    Location:
    Kaskeland
    I May Be Late seems to me to be a camouflaged look at Neil being torn between pursuing his career and being at home with his young family. (Liam born 1983 and Elroy born 1989). It could also be Neil working out the issues with Nick through writing a song. Could it be he didn't want to develop the themes running around his head any further because it was too close to the bone?

    Either way, I like the song and wish it had been developed further. 4.5/5 as a demo, 3.5/5 as a song, for an average of 4/5.
     
  24. jcr64

    jcr64 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Indiana
    There seems to be a consensus here: weak verse, good chorus. The opening lyric strikes me as particularly weak; no way it would have remained had Neil continued to develop the song.

    A fun demo, but not one that merits lots of repeat listening.

    3/5
     
  25. This song is a sonic sleeping pill. A GENEROUS 3/5.
     
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