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. StefanWq

    StefanWq Forum Resident

    Location:
    Vallentuna, Sweden
    "I May Be Late" is nice to have as a bonus track and the jangly guitar gives it a bit of character but otherwise it is unremarkable. Lyrically it seems to be about a relationship that has been through a crisis but is now on its way to reconciliation. I hear it as a companion piece to "You Got Me Going" in that respect.
    A decent track certainly so I'll give it 2,6/5.
     
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  2. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle TEFL Lord Thread Starter

    Location:
    Vsetin
    Our votes for "I May Be Late"

    1-0
    2-1
    3-5
    4-2
    5-0
    Average: 3.15
     
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  3. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle TEFL Lord Thread Starter

    Location:
    Vsetin
    I was going to do "Be My Guest [home demo]", but there's a live version from 1995 which is on on The Kitchen Sink Vol 1 that I feel utterly smokes the home demo, so I think I"m going to hold up the song for discussion in the batch of 95/96 songs and both demo and live version can be discussed at once.
    Sorry for any confusion.
     
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  4. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle TEFL Lord Thread Starter

    Location:
    Vsetin
    Today's song is "Dr. Livingstone", written by Neil Finn and produced by "Crowded House"(i.e., Neil Finn.)

    Dr. Livingston

    "Dr. Livingstone" was recorded in the batch of songs at Platinum studios in 1989 by the group at the time when Nick Seymour had been fired, according to Chris Bourke's biography of the band. The bass would have been played by Neil Finn himself or "Joe Somebody", as he was called. Mark Hart played on some of these songs and may contribute on keyboards.

    Whether Nick later re-recorded the bass is not known. Bourke claims the songs from this period were "never revisisted", though Neil later felt that some of them should have been considered for Woodface.

    The song was included on the original, Capitol-rejected version of what was to become Woodface, before the Finn Brothers project merged with the Crowded House project, after which it was taken out due to the plethora of good songs in the period.

    "Dr. LIvingstone" was released as a B-side during the Woodface era, (on Four Seasons In ONe Day in the UK). It was the only song from these "Nickless" sessions to be released until the Afterglow collection in 1999, where it was also included.

    The song was inspired by Neil's two week visit to Mozambique in early 1989, where he visited refugee camps and ended up feeling a bit humbled yet uplifted by the experience.

    The title is a reference to David Livingstone , (I presume), the 19th century Scottish physician who worked as a missionary in Africa.
     
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2019
  5. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle TEFL Lord Thread Starter

    Location:
    Vsetin
    "Dr. Livingstone" excited me a lot when I first heard it in 2000.

    The lyric is an interesting one: it opens with an image of a steam ship travelling deep in the jungle, a vision of the colonial past that gives way to images of modern war and suffering, and finally concluding with a mad-sounding rant in which Neil confesses that he "wants to be deep in a monastery", (something which he apparently literally did seriously consider for a short time) "I Am A White Man in Africa" he sings, "With more than just my God to appease."

    There is of course, the usual Neil Finn jamble of linear sense here, but the overall emotional impression I get is that the usual Neil Finn lyrical issues with guilt are put into proper perspective by visiting the war-torn poverty-stricken country; he is humbled by the fact that there still exists "love in this place, 'midst of all this waste." (He later described his visit to Mozambique as "uplifting.")

    Musically, I feel that the song is very ambitious: built on a menacing groove that gives way to a mad martial chorus and ends up with swirling cascades of twelve string guitars, mournful lead solos, pianos and organs that somehow all do much more to suggest war-torn, disease-ridden hungry Africa to me than recorded sound effects would have done; the rant at the end, shouted over the "Mansion in the Slums"-like backing vocals, (Neil and Paul, here, I guess) in which Neil Finn announces his desire to join a monastery is powerful and brings the song to a real emotional climax.

    When I first got the Afterglow album it came with a bonus CD of Neil Finn discussing each song. In this one he said that he felt that it had "too much singing" on it, and while at the time I didn't agree, I actually do now. This song in my opinion does suffer slightly from what I call the "over-verbose syndrome" that sometimes afflicts Elvis Costello's work. I guess Neil was bursting with his experience and really was trying to make a dramatic art-rock masterpiece of it.

    However, I'm not sure what part of the singing I would cut: none of it, in fact. Perhaps adding a bit more of the swirling backing track before the coda might have eliminated this issue for me.

    This is very much the Temple of Low Men sound, in my opinion, dark, moody rock yet catchy and "poppy"; but the sound is slightly different and more rocking. The song was engineered by Chris Corr and mixed by Tchad Blake for the single release; but the cracking, drier drums sound, finally, very much like the nineties to me and not so much like the glossy, tinny 80s.

    I give the song 4.2/5
     
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2019
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  6. Ryan Lux

    Ryan Lux Forum Resident

    Location:
    Toronto, ON, CA
    Was Dr. Livingstone remixed for Afterglow? I remember not liking it on there as much as my B Side, long since lost unfortunately.

    Good tune. Not exactly his most immediate but worth taking the time with. I like the tag, especially.

    3.5/5
     
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  7. Otis82

    Otis82 Forum Resident

    Location:
    The Netherlands
    It’s a different mix on “Afterglow”, for sure.
     
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  8. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle TEFL Lord Thread Starter

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    Oh, God, now I'm going to have to track down the single.
     
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  9. Paul H

    Paul H Forum Resident

    Location:
    Nottingham, UK
    I'm pretty sure the differences between the single and Afterglow are down to mastering. Afterglow is significantly louder than the single, which brings up many sounds that are more muted on the latter, especially that brief intro swell.

    Dr Livingtone (or Dr Livingston as the UK CD single has it) is one of my all-time favourite CH songs. It was on the first CD single of theirs I bothered to buy (because, oddly, the single actually featured unreleased songs as opposed to live cuts).

    I adore pretty much the whole thing. It's one of the quintessential CH songs to me. The loping yet menacing rhythm, the bass-playing which seems to fit perfectly (and which, for years, I gave Nick immense credit for) and the way the melody (or, at least, the way Neil intonates it) seems to be emphasised on the beat, all add up to a recording that I find impossible to ignore. This is one of those songs that is impossible for me to play quietly. More often than not, a song I can't sit down to, or not air-drum to.

    I love the pause at the end of the verse that is marked by Hessie's fill: it seems to be the climax of a build in tension that gets relieved when Neil hits the chorus. And what a chorus. That lyric "I hear the drums, I know it's urgent, I hear survival in his hands. Switch to record, I get the picture but I will never understand" seems so evocative to me.

    And then, after the storm, the calm of the verse again.

    The coda is equally magical. As "hours later the thought of my bed makes me tired and ready for sleep" begets a rant, so the music builds to this final, exhausting crescendo.

    Perfection.

    For all that Woodface needed the input of the Finn Brothers' songs, and something had to give, it is one of the music world's (or, at least, my musical world's) greatest mistakes/"tragedies" that this song was abandoned. For me, it ought to have been a highlight of Woodface. Perhaps it was just too similar to Whispers and Moans (another song I'll wax lyrical about shortly) but, for me. you can't have too much of a good thing. That CH had material like this they could discard was proof then and now of just how incredible Neil is as a songwriter; that they could ignore it in favour of dross like Tall Trees and Fame Is, is proof that even a genius like Neil can make mistakes :)

    I'm guessing you've worked out that I'm going to give Dr Livingstone (that E still seems out of place!) a 5/5.

    I should add that this was one of my personal Exhibit A's in my argument that CH was one of the greatest bands of the age, if not of all ages: everything gelled perfectly, the whole band coming together in magical harmony to produce perfection. To later learn that Nick was, in fact, absent (although he seemed to know the bass part pretty well for a song he wouldn't have heard much given its abandonment not long after he rejoined) is another pin in the bubble that is the myth of Crowded House.

    It seems that the more one learns about the behind-the-scenes workings of Crowded House, the more it becomes clear that it was barely and rarely a band. I can more understand Neil's frustration at many fans' seeming obsession with that part of his career given that the reality seems to be that Nick and Paul were often no more than dispensable session players. It's to everyone's credit that, out of this chaos they seemed to gel so perfectly anytime they were on a stage together.
     
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  10. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle TEFL Lord Thread Starter

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    This is why I make two playlists of this era. Three, actually, counting Before and After. A lot of classics and near-classics discarded, IMO.
    .
     
  11. Paul H

    Paul H Forum Resident

    Location:
    Nottingham, UK
    Perhaps a discussion for (much) later in the thread, but my CH playlists filter out the Finn Bros and solo songs (putting them in their respective categories) that were released under the band banner. The recent decision to fire Mark Hart, perversely, has me musing on whether or not to abandon that idea and just accept that CH really is just whoever Neil wants to work with under that name. As they years go by, CH becomes more and more conceptual - almost Neil's very own Plastic Ono Band.
     
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  12. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle TEFL Lord Thread Starter

    Location:
    Vsetin
    I haven't done that with Time on Earth yet, but I probably will someday. I've read read your (pre-Mark Hart dismissal) massive posts on this subject on frenz.com. I do split TOE into two separate playlists like it is on vinyl. It's too long otherwise for me.

    But for me it's not about some kind of ideal of what a band should be.

    For me it's more the character of the music. To me there's a world of difference between "Dr. Livingstone" and "Weather with You." Different drummers (Fataar and Hester), different bassists(Neil or "Joe" vs Neil and Nick); but especially the presence of Tim Finn as performer and songwriter really tips the balance: it does not sound like the same band.

    I'm not complaining about Woodface which is a great album, obviously, a classic; and certainly not suggesting other people need to listen to the music the way I do.

    I simply enjoy it more to have the Finn Brothers stuff separate from the Crowded House stuff,given that all of the songs are very much worth hearing in my opinion.
     
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  13. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle TEFL Lord Thread Starter

    Location:
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    By the way, RIP to Richard Finn, whose offspring have brought me so much pleasure over the last three decades.
     
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  14. HitAndRun

    HitAndRun Forum Resident

    Same from me.
     
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  15. Paul H

    Paul H Forum Resident

    Location:
    Nottingham, UK
    Oh no, I hadn't heard this news. My sympathies to the whole Finn family.
     
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  16. Paul H

    Paul H Forum Resident

    Location:
    Nottingham, UK
    I take it from that - very polite - response that you don't share my view. Fair play. You're allowed to be wrong :)

    Seriously though, as I've alluded to in many posts, the thing for me about Crowded House was that they always seemed to be a perfect band. It's my own projection of what I wanted them to be. As I noted earlier, the never-ending dismantling of that perception is quite saddening but also quite liberating. Rather than holding them up as some kind of God-in-rock-band-form, they need to be seen for what they were.

    My problem with ToE was always - as you'll know from reading my posts at the Forum - is that Neil seemed to break that tryst that he'd set up with fans not to abuse the name of Crowded House by using for whatever group of musicians he happened to be working with. Mark's dismissal and the continued revelations that CH wasn't the band I thought it was actually make it easier for me to accept ToE as a band album.

    Having said that though, I agree with the final statement in my quote of yours: it's also about the character of the music. To me, ToE sounds nothing like Crowded House. The four actual-band songs don't sound anything like the rest of the album to me. I'm getting well ahead of myself here, so I'll pause this line of discussion but, suffice to say, I don't hear ToE as a band album, which is why those songs don't appear on my CH playlists. Perhaps, as time goes on, that view might change.
     
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  17. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle TEFL Lord Thread Starter

    Location:
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    I don’t disagree with you re: TOE. It’s more like I’m just not sure. My life in 2007 was such that I didn’t hear it for years and thus am not super-familiar with that album yet. I think I actually agree with you, But need more time to consider it.

    But I think we’re basically saying the same things. When these projects sort of change that’s fine; but they do sound like different projects and for some reason my Anal retentiveness wants to treat them as such.
     
  18. Paul H

    Paul H Forum Resident

    Location:
    Nottingham, UK
    Anal retentiveness certainly plays a part for me :) but it's as much about exploring the potential alternative realities that might have come about. With regard to Woodface, its as much about discovering what that album and a separate Finn Brothers album might have sounded like if the two had not been merged. If nothing else, it offers a fresh way to hear much-heard songs.
     
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  19. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle TEFL Lord Thread Starter

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    Agreed!
     
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  20. jcr64

    jcr64 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Indiana
    I recall being "introduced" to Richard Finn on at least two occasions at Crowded House concerts, with Neil holding up a laptop to the crowd so that we could say hello to his father watching remotely. I will always think of him when I hear (or occasionally sing) "I Can't Get Started."
     
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  21. HitAndRun

    HitAndRun Forum Resident

    Dr Livingstone is fine, and the lyrics content is very interesting. However, as a song, I don't think it's a standout. The hookline is there, but it's not as perfectly crafted as other CH songs.

    I've been listening carefully to the bass line, and I must admit I don't think it's quite as good as typical CH baselines.

    It's a good song, but I think there are many better.

    3.1/5
     
  22. I like this song just fine. I certainly like it a lot more than "I may be Late," which I gave a 3, so I feel like I have to give it a 4/5. This is more a reflection on how over-kind I was to I may be late, although I do enjoy this one so I'm ok with it, I guess. I do like the almost desperate note of hopefulness that tries to cut through how dark the song is - it creates a neat, moody vibe.
     
  23. I like this tune a fair bit - I like it a lot better than the previous one we went over, which I probably overscored at 3, so I have to give this one a 4/5 on the sliding scale that is largely meaningless when I'm the one handing out ratings (but this is a known issue).

    I do like it though - the hopeful bits poking out of all the bleakness in the song creates a really compelling, moody vibe that adds some cool texture.
     
  24. SteveMac

    SteveMac Forum Resident

    This line from Dr. Livingstone is arguably one of Neil's finest ever: "I hit record, I get the picture, but I will never understand." Very clever writing.
     
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  25. jcr64

    jcr64 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Indiana
    "Dr. Livingstone" is full of nervous energy and interesting imagery. I wouldn't put it among Neil's top flight, but it's a very good song, and it's a shame that it never found a place other than as a B-side and on "Afterglow" (though it would not have fit on "Woodface").

    4/5

    I'm finding the side discussion of what constitutes Crowded House interesting. 2007 was the first time that I saw Crowded House live (I have no idea why I never saw them in the 1988-93 era, as I was going to concerts then and bought all the Crowded House albums on release). That may be why I don't have trouble accepting "Time on Earth" as a Crowded House album--it's Neil and Nick throughout and is largely a reflection on Paul's suicide, and Mark came back for four songs (and the tour). I agree that it didn't sound particularly like Crowded House--but then again neither did "Together Alone" in 1993 or "Woodface" in 1991. But Crowded House is still something more than whoever Neil decides to play with at a particular time--I listened to the fan club release of the 2002 concert at the 9:30 Club in Washington this morning, and that band was definitely not Crowded House, even when they were playing Crowded House songs.

    I'm fascinated (and disappointed) by Neil's decision to drop Mark Hart from the upcoming revival. Mark's voice and instrumental versatility and virtuosity were essential to Crowded House's success as a performing band--its tightness and its ability to go on spur-of-the-moment musical diversions without falling apart. Can Mitchell Froom sing? The harmonies were one of the weakest aspects of the 2002 live recording--and, with Mark, were one of Crowded House's strengths, both during his time with the band pre-"Farewell to the World" and from 2007 to 2010.

    Sorry for the diversion.
     
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