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. D.B.

    D.B. Forum Resident

    Well, not having listened to "Astrud" yet, I don't mind this song and like it more than the earlier ones from this album.
    I have to agree that the verses and intro are more successful than some of the chorus elements. I also agree with Lance that the concept and lyrics contribute a lot to making this song more attractive for me. I'd listen to this now and then.
    The acoustc solo and soundscape surrounding it arenice too. Some restraint is shown on this recording!
    I'll need to check out "Astrud" though, it sounds like it'd be right up my alley. To coin a brand new phrase.
  2. Got to agree with everyone who said this feels the most like a Tim track - I could definitely see it on Big Canoe. There's a good song hidden between the agonizingly long intro and outro, which just about double the length of the song. That repeated riff feels so much like stock music - takes me back to some of my earlier "training video" comments.

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  3. jcr64

    jcr64 Forum Resident

    Are we going to discuss Tim's collaboration with Captain Feathersword and the Wiggles? I loved that when my son was little, even though Tim looked a bit uncomfortable. :)
  4. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle Prince of Swollen Sinus Thread Starter

    sure. And the Magnificent Nose and Underwater Melon Man.
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  5. Michael Rofkar

    Michael Rofkar Forum Resident

    Santa Rosa, CA
    Thanks for the welcomes! I guess that means I can vote? If so, I give "Verde" a 3.5/5, mostly for the quality of Tim's singing. I agree it doesn't need to be 6 1/2 minutes long, but it's a decent song with a good lyric.
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  6. Michael Rofkar

    Michael Rofkar Forum Resident

    Santa Rosa, CA
    If anyone has said this before, I missed it - but I've always thought that the title "Temple of Low Men" must be a play on a Chinese restaurant's name that they encountered in L.A. - Temple of Lo Mein. Pure conjecture, but it makes sense to me.
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  7. jcr64

    jcr64 Forum Resident

    Compared to the others from the album so far, I do like this song. It's not that melodically interesting, but it has a solid groove and another strong vocal from Tim. The intro and outro are much too long--the song easily could be two minutes shorter without really losing anything. But the overall production seems better here; some of the things that really bugged me on the other tracks--the backing vocals, the horns--seem better mixed and better placed this time. I don't think I'll seek this out in the future, but if I stumble across it, I won't mind giving it another listen.

  8. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle Prince of Swollen Sinus Thread Starter

    Our votes for "Verde":

    Average: 3.3857
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  9. BeSteVenn

    BeSteVenn little-known member

    failed state
    I've refrained from commenting on the songs from Southern Cross. My original exposure to the Finns and Split Enz was via Phil Manzanera. (I was a fan back in the 70s, but have followed his career much less since then.) I've always categorized this album in my mind as a Phil Manzanera album. As a latter day Phil Manzanera record, it's ok. As a Tim Finn album, it's stillborn. I couldn't fairly rate these songs in the context of a Tim Finn record.

    I've enjoyed all the comments and how people have rated these songs, thanks everybody.
  10. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle Prince of Swollen Sinus Thread Starter

    Today's song is "Dr. Fidel", written by Phil Manzanera and Tim Finn. Lead vocal by Tim Finn.
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  11. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle Prince of Swollen Sinus Thread Starter

    I imagine that Phil Manzanaera regards the Cuban Revolution as the historical event that has shaped his life the most. His family were living in Cuba until that point, at which time they left for Europe. I think this song reflects that childhood memory, with its images of blood on the streets, soldiers pulling up, a fleeing man shot in the back and the final of image of a ship leaving ,"clearing a way for Dr. Fidel".

    The last line: "A middle-class doctor performs an operation/his words are a scalpel that cuts through my life" is just beautiful and the lyric on this song is by far my favorite.

    Tim's deft words along with the extended and surprisingly emotional Manzanera guitar solos, and Mel_Collins' wailing soprano sax, all wedded to the electro-disco of the track and the Spanish backing vocals make this by far my favorite song on the album, rivalled only by "Astrud", which isn't even on my copy of the album. I think it's cool as all....jolly heck.

    What I like about this is that they explicitly focus on the human story of the political event here, rather than preaching as they did on "The Rich and the Poor" or "A Million Reasons Why."

    It's an interesting song: the album flirts with Marxist themes here and there but not really on this song. Here, as on "Verde", it's only about the emotions of the humans and the images, particularly the child who, seeing the man shot in the back "takes a snapshot and shivers inside".
    I see the song simply a starkly-told story about a regular human family caught up in a power conflict-- in a place where a child's or any individual's emotions are small and insignificant next to great historical events; yet larger and more evocative than any manifesto or rhetorical rant ever could be.

    Last edited: Oct 21, 2019
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  12. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle Prince of Swollen Sinus Thread Starter

    Tomorrow will be the last song from Southern Cross; on Thursday, there's another Manzanera/Finn outtake; and on Friday I'm going to hold up an earlier Tim Finn song (from 1988) that we missed.

    On Saturday the Woodface+few remaining bonus tracks discussion will begin.
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2019
  13. robcar

    robcar Forum Resident

    Denver, CO
    Where do the Tim/Phil Judd collaborations from The Big Steal soundtrack fit in?
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  14. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle Prince of Swollen Sinus Thread Starter

    Oh, crap. Thanks for reminding me. I had forgotten about those because I had originally planne d to to them before the Southern Cross songs.

    Actually I need to do those first so Woodface will start next week, on Tuesday.

    So it will be:
    • Venceremos
    • Fifth Wheel
    • Long Hard Road
    • Precious Time
    • Tai Chi
    • Am I Big Enough
    Then Woodface, on Tuesday.
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2019
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  15. Turk Thrust

    Turk Thrust Forum Resident

    I missed Verde, but these songs all kind of blend into one for me anyway with their dated productions. 2/5 for that one.

    Dr. Fidel is worse. The drums, the female vocals, the production... Close to unlistenable. Sorry, but 1/5.
  16. StefanWq

    StefanWq Forum Resident

    Vallentuna, Sweden
    The first few times I heard "Dr. Fidel" many years ago, I thought it was really really terrible. Excruciatingly bad. But still, it strangely fascinated me anyway and I never skipped it and now when I hear it I actually really like it. The things that I initially disliked about the song - the drum machine in the verses that sounds like it's straight out of "Conflicting Emotions" (the song, in particular), the general weird rhythms and odd keyboard sounds, the chanting female voices in the background, the somewhat "casual" or "lazy" soprano saxophone playing - are now the things that I think makes it a unique song. The lyrics paint a vivid picture of the Cuban revolution as it happened, from a child's perspective ("A child is awake he watches in silence / A truck load of soldiers pull up in the night / A man makes a run he's shot in the back / A child takes a snapshot and shivers inside"). That must be quite shocking for a child to witness and it may well be based on something that Phil Manzanera himself actually experienced when he was a child. The next verse says "And down on the bay there's a ship that is leaving / Clearing a path for Doctor Fidel". I've always interpreted that to refer to dictator Batista fleeing the country and going to the Dominican republic. The Cuban regime before the revolution was from all accounts very brutal and oppressive, so I imagine there were many Cubans who really hoped Fidel Castro would be the saviour, the cure. The song lyrics has an ominous tone though: "It's hard not to listen to the voice of persuasion / It's subtle as music and sharp as a knife / A middle class doctor performs an operation / His words are a scalpel that cuts through my life". On an album where Phil Manzanera himself has often been curiously in the background, this song really seems based more on his experiences than Tim's. And I think that shows slightly in Tim's singing - he has only read/heard about the Cuban revolution much later, he hasn't experienced living in a brutal military dictatorship or been there when a revolution takes place in a country. His singing is very good but it just lacks that bit extra that comes from "having breathed the air" so to speak.
    But overall, much to my surprise, I find myself liking this song much more than I ever thought I would do.
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  17. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle Prince of Swollen Sinus Thread Starter

    I must say that when I first heard this album I too hated this song.
    But I’ve grown to love it: it’s one of the songs where the drum machine works for me. For one thing I don’t think an acoustic drummer could really get those rhythms going, and they are integral to the composition. and there’s something about the guitar solo which in my opinion is the centerpiece of the song, and the way it plays against the electronic backing for some reason really works for me.

    I agree that this song feels more like Manzanera than Tim, just as the last one felt more Tim than Manzanera. I don’t have a problem with Tim’s singing, though, I think he is a secondary element behind the guitar.
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  18. Otis82

    Otis82 Forum Resident

    The Netherlands
    Although we’re looking forward at the moment I’d like to return to an earlier conversation we had here about Crowded House’s recording of “She’s Not There”. I sent producer Martin Armiger some questions and he was kind enough to reply.

    The initiative for the soundtrack contribution was by Armiger. He knew Neil and Paul from before the band’s succes, but he hadn’t had contact for a while.

    Manager Grant Thomas agreed to the deal under the condition the soundtrack wasn’t released before the band’s new album they were recording at the time (Their third album).

    The band, Neil, Paul ànd Nick, convened at AAV Studio 1 in Melbourne for three days of recording. Also present were producer Martin Armiger and engineer Michael Stavrou. The band hadn’t spoken to each other for quite a while and at that point weren’t even sure they were still a band. The first day was mostly spent talking, drinking tea and laughing with Paul.

    Day two recording began with a basic rythm track with Paul (drums), Nick (bass) and Neil (piano). Neil then overdubbed electric piano and guitar.

    On day three Neil recorded his vocal, but wasn’t satisfied with the results and came back a week later to redo his vocal. The song was then mixed.

    The release of the third Crowded House album was delayed when Neil decided to re-record several tracks with a different rythm section, therefore the soundtrack album for “The Cross” was also put back a year and a half.

    So in short:

    Nick is on bass;
    Neil plays piano and electric piano (not Mark);
    Martin Armiger was aware of the band’s fragile status in 1989 and of Nick and Paul’s status in 1990 when recording for “Woodface” resumed with the “Neil and Tim songs”.

    Thanks to Martin Armiger for his reply.
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  19. StefanWq

    StefanWq Forum Resident

    Vallentuna, Sweden
    Yes, thank you very much to Martin Armiger for this very interesting information, and thank YOU for asking him about it!
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  20. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle Prince of Swollen Sinus Thread Starter

    Wow, thank you so much for researching that. What a fascinating period.
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  21. HitAndRun

    HitAndRun Forum Resident

    Thanks for the background on She's Not There.

    For Dr Fidel, I think it's an OK track. I note that those who love it did so over time. When I have an album that I don't like all that much, I simply don't choose to play it that often. And therefore I don't get a chance for the songs to grow on me. Perhaps I should, but there is so much to play. Even with newer albums that I like, because there is so much other stuff to play, I often don't get to know them well. This is different from a teenager with only 20 albums in his collection.

    If not for this thread, it's quite likely that I wouldn't have ever listened to the album again. But, listening to it enough for things to grow on me - that's a task. And when I do listen to albums, I like to listen to things I enjoy.

    OK, enough navel-gazing.

    I think the drum machine track is too rigid. Perhaps that's what PM wanted, but I think the track would have been improved greatly with a live drummer or at least more effort applied to the programming.

    The vocal melody is subdued, perhaps because they wanted the lyrics to take centre stage. I'll discuss those a bit later. Tim's voice similarly subdued. Which would be fine if there was more of a payoff later on.

    I do think the guitar solos are very good, though I'd prefer to hear them in a more organic setting. The bass is also very good in my opinion. Sorry, I program drum machines myself, but this song needs something better for the drums. However, I think I'd get used to the drums if I listened to it more,. perhaps because of the 'familiarity is kind to ugliness and cruel to beauty' effect.

    The lyrics perhaps mean more to me than they did before. While this is a thread on Finn music not my holidays, I did visit a country that is very much shaped by a historical revolution, and I did hear a lot about that revolution and how it is viewed now. It wasn't Cuba BTW so I won't go further than that. But, in terms of people's lives being incredibly affected by a revolution; all of: people who left because of it, people who lived through it, and people who have been born and grown up after it, I have seen and heard some of this. This makes me want to understand the lyrics more - I couldn't find a transcription and will have to take time to listen to the lyrics carefully and transcribe them all myself if I can. I also may want to read up on the Cuban Revolution, particularly about what happened afterwards and how the revolution is viewed now; both by people living in Cuba and people no longer doing so.

    As I can see myself getting to like this song more if I gave it more of a chance, I'm going to vote:


    This is my highest vote for a song on this album so far, and therefore fully invalidates my rough memory expressed earlier on that we might already have heard the best from this album.
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  22. I'm going with a 3/5 for this one as well. It's ok, but it would have to be a grower. I'm in the same camp as HitAndRun in that I'm not one to go back to stuff that doesn't resonate with me much, so ti may never have the chance to really grow on me.

    It'll be interesting to see how I respond to some of the latter day stuff in a few weeks'/months' time as there's some more recent works I've never felt compelled to go back to.
  23. HitAndRun

    HitAndRun Forum Resident

    I'm feeling a lot of compulsion to go back to Say It Is So, and also Time on Earth. Both of which I know less well than albums released when I was less distracted by other stuff, but both of which I think stand up to the best in the Finn catalogues.
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  24. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle Prince of Swollen Sinus Thread Starter

    With me it’s the late ‘00s I’m least familiar with2006-2014. Too little money and time to follow music. it would take me years to get around to buying a CD.
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  25. For me it was more about stuff I just didn't get into. Intriguer and the last couple Neil Finn albums did almost nothing for me. I should start listening now and see if they're growers.

    Are we going to incorporate Liam and Elroy into the festivities?

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