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 Prince of Swollen Sinus Thread Starter

    There are versions of "She Goes On" on Foreplay, Manchester Split and Encore! (Neil Finn) fan club albums.
    HitAndRun, D.B. and StefanWq like this.
  2. StefanWq

    StefanWq Forum Resident

    Vallentuna, Sweden
    That's right, I had (temporarily) forgotten about those ones, sorry!
    HitAndRun, D.B. and Lance LaSalle like this.
  3. therunner

    therunner Forum Resident

    I saw Neil perform it live in 1998 on the Try Whistling This tour at Manchester Apollo - magical
    HitAndRun, D.B., StefanWq and 2 others like this.
  4. Otis82

    Otis82 Forum Resident

    The Netherlands
    Also a rarity. Odd fact: Matt Sherrod probably played "She Goes On" more often than Paul Hester. As far as I know it was played once in 1991, once in 1993, twice in 1994, etc. Crowded House may have played it less than 30 times in all, Neil Finn solo maybe less than 20 times. Neil played it occasionaly on his "Try Whistling This"-tour, so there's a couple of live recording from that period.

    I saw Crowded House in Paris in 2007 and they played it then. I had to travel to Dublin to hear Tim Finn play "How Will You Go" :)
    HitAndRun, D.B., StefanWq and 2 others like this.
  5. therunner

    therunner Forum Resident

    The drummer I saw was a 15-year old Liam if memory serves.
  6. Aphoristical

    Aphoristical Aphoristic Album Reviews

    I really like this one - it works really well as a closing track.
    HitAndRun, D.B., StefanWq and 2 others like this.
  7. factory44

    factory44 Forum Resident

    Pittsburgh, PA USA
    HWYG is so very wonderful. The harmonies are incredible. Tim sounds particularly fabulous. His voice on the choruses is truly awesome. Right up there with his best ever performances.

    Yet another 5/5.
  8. jcr64

    jcr64 Forum Resident

    "How Will You Go" is a wonderful way to end the album (end it, that is, assuming you're fast enough to hit pause or lift the needle before the execrable "I'm Still Here"). The song is carried largely by the fantastic harmonies (the last time we'll hear the brothers like this, I think--Tim's voice was in rough shape for the first Finn Brothers album, and the style of "Everyone Is Here" was very different (and Tim's sense of pitch was occasionally a little wonky there, too). The lyrics are sad and resonant ("And I know I'll be fine/Just don't ask me how it's going" is a line that hits home). I really like the song, but it doesn't quite hit the highs of the album's best for me. It does suffer a bit from proximity to "As Sure as I Am," the second song out of four in with the same key/meter/tempo. And, surefooted as Mitchell Froom's work on the album was as a whole--it's easily his best work with Crowded House--I think he makes a few small missteps here. So, for me, 4/5. But I really do enjoy it.
  9. Ryan Lux

    Ryan Lux Forum Resident

    Toronto, ON, CA
    Yes, something happened to Tim's voice by the time of the CH final show. He started losing some of that light flexibility and control he had on Woodface.
    HitAndRun, D.B., StefanWq and 2 others like this.
  10. jcr64

    jcr64 Forum Resident

    I've just discovered that I have a live recording of "How Will You Go," on a fan club CD (Utrecht 1992). It's nicely done, but it suffers from a problem common to Neil/Tim "Woodface" songs when played after Tim's departure: Neil's vocal is turned up louder than the other vocalist (Paul? Mark?), as if Neil's part was the melody and the other was simply backing harmony. It's particularly striking here, as Neil's part is largely in fact the harmony line, not the melody. It detracts significantly from the performance.
  11. DolphinsIntheJacuzzi

    DolphinsIntheJacuzzi Forum Resident

    Houston, TX
    How will you go is another beautiful track on an album full of them. A perfect closer to a near-perfect album. Not quite in the rarified air of the album's best moments. But a perfect ending, nonetheless. 4/5.
  12. Michael Rofkar

    Michael Rofkar Forum Resident

    Santa Rosa, CA
    Do I hear an electric sitar or sitar/guitar in there?
    As said above, "How Will You Go" suffers from coming right after "She Goes On", both musically and thematically. Still, it's a great song. 4.5/5
    HitAndRun, D.B., StefanWq and 4 others like this.
  13. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle Prince of Swollen Sinus Thread Starter

    The cut off date on record is squarely Before and After. He sounds great on that record, but never sounded the same again.
    HitAndRun, D.B., Paul H and 2 others like this.
  14. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle Prince of Swollen Sinus Thread Starter

    Our votes for "How Will You Go"

    Average: 4.9167
    HitAndRun, D.B. and StefanWq like this.
  15. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle Prince of Swollen Sinus Thread Starter

    Today, Woodface as a whole.
    HitAndRun and StefanWq like this.
  16. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle Prince of Swollen Sinus Thread Starter

    I've made no secret of my tendency to split Woodface up into two different playlists. I stand by that: for me, the Crowded House record and the Finn Brothers Crowded House are distinct sounds and distinct bands, despite the fact that the production and mix go a substantial way towards making it all sound of a piece.

    I do also think the album is too long, the way it is, two songs too long in fact. If I didn't make two separate playlists, I'd probably cut "Tall Trees" and "All I Ask"-- the former because I think it's weaker and the latter because it sounds a bit out of place. And I think both songs sound fine on the Finn Brothers playlist, I will add. I also think that for all Froom's genius, I don't like the touch he brings to some of the songs. Sometimes he plays it a bit too safe. This was especially pronounced on Tim Finn but it's more prominent here. Of course, part of that is also Clearmountain's mix. Bob Clearmountain tends to like things to sparkle (good) but also pushes down the wilder elements in the sound.

    But too long is kind of a weird criticism for me because my playlists (or at least the Tim-less CH one, which is adapted from the "original" album but has "Time Immemorial added to it is almost just as long.)

    And Together Alone is just as long and I actually pad that out with "Zen Roxy" which itself is like 9 minutes long or something. Sometimes I even wish that the 5 complete outtakes that have been released had been released in 1993 and they had done a double album/CD. (And I think that that hard rocking stuff might have gone over better in the States in 1993/1994, personally.)

    What can I say? Like Walt Whitman, I contain millions.

    By now you probably think that I hate the record (Woodface, that is), but I absolutely love it nevertheless. All 14.5 songs of it. Some of my quibbles are just over-familiarity perhaps --it's a thirty year old record, although I didn't really get into it until 1996 or 1997, that's still over twenty years. And there is just the fact that with the release of all the bonus tracks in 2016 I prefer to listen to it differently.

    I can still confidently give it a 5/5. I believe the other full-fledged fives I've given on this thread were for Frenzy [the platonic ideal version], Time and Tide [the needledrop version which I have sadly lost] and Temple of Low Men. The sheer amount of great, magnificent, awesome songs on Woodface is staggering, and this thread has really driven that point home. Just great song after great song after great song. The low moments are still very high; the album goes on, but never really sags -- only my attention does. This is more pronounced in the age of the Internet, I guess as well as my limited ability to really focus for great swaths of time in the modern age -- too busy, too many distractions.

    Furthermore, I like the whole story of it. It's quite a saga and it ends being a triumphant tale of creative compromise and hard work. I'm glad that it established Crowded House, that Tim got a taste of the "heights that he had craved" since 1976. It probably paid for his retirement and helped to establish a cult audience of which I am proudly a member. It kept Crowded House from breaking up under financial pressure from Capitol.

    It paved the golden way to Fleetwood Mac.


    Anyway. So. 5/5.
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2019
  17. Jaffaman

    Jaffaman Forum Resident

    I’m Still Here - I love a surprise ending. Substance assisted it may be, but it’s great to have a bit of the live act’s humour preserved on record. In the bonus remix, you hear Paul at the end saying, “I don’t know if I could double that.”

    The same night, the band recorded “Ugly Sheila”. Neil and Nick ok’ed this as a hidden track for the box set in 2006, then dis-ok’ed it ten years later. That’s fortunate for everyone, in hindsight. It’s an hilariously/disturbingly graphic monologue from Paul with a suitably late night lounge-type electric piano and drum backing.
    NorthNY Mark, Otis82, robcar and 5 others like this.
  18. StefanWq

    StefanWq Forum Resident

    Vallentuna, Sweden
    When Woodface was finally released it had been nearly three years since the previous album. I had joined the fan club in mid-1990 and got updates through the newsletters how the next record was progressing. In these newsletters, it had been said more than once that it would be out in September 1990, which then became January 1991, which became April/May 1991 before its eventual release on June 26, 1991 (in Europe at least, I think it may have been a week later in the States and in Australia/New Zealand). I remember the day of release very well. This was the summer before I started university and I spent a few weeks working. On June 26, I was first going to work normal office hours, then have a couple of hours of spare time before working again (selling tickets to a concert) in the evening. I went to a big record store during the hours off and as I walked in, they were actually playing the album - "How Will You Go" was starting as I entered the store and I immediately heard it was Crowded House. After that song, there was a brief interlude when they played a brief track, obviously recorded by some third-rate punk band (though I would soon enough realise it had been "I'm Still Here"), before starting over with "Chocolate Cake". I don't think I ever heard any record store playing Crowded House again after that day, so that was special.

    I was very excited that Tim and Neil were back together and eagerly looked forward to hearing the album. To me, I wasn't particularly surprised when it was announced via a fan club newsletter that he had joined the group. He had guested some Crowded House shows in the States in September 1987, in the early months of 1988 (before Temple of Low Men was released) the short-lived U.S. fan club had mentioned that Tim and Neil were going to do a Finn Brothers album eventually, Tim sang backing vocals on Temple of Low Men, Neil played and sang backing vocals on Tim Finn, there was a Split Enz reunion tour in late 1989/early 1990, much talk in the fan club newsletters about how they had written songs together for the first time and were going to make a duo record... it seemed obvious to me that they had reconnected and were enjoying working together again, so it all seemed very natural and organic that Crowded House and Finn Brothers had merged. (I had been a big fan of them both for several years at this time, I guess if somebody who I was not a fan of had joined Crowded House I would have been less enthusiastic).

    I think I played the album on repeat more or less non-stop the next few months. "Chocolate Cake" got a lot of radio airplay here, the album became the first CH record to chart (peaking at #24 in August) and when the band announced its European tour, Stockholm was included (which has only happened twice after that). It was a great time to be a fan.

    Hearing the album in its entirety again now, nearly 30 years after it was released, it still sounds incredible, particularly the Finn Brothers harmonies. It's a great collection of songs (only "Fame Is" is sub-par in my opinion). We have discussed a bit here the length of the album and how it maybe should have been a couple of tracks shorter. When I listened to the album earlier today, it struck me that I'm fine with its length but that the sequencing isn't so great. To me, it sounds like there are three sections, where section one ís the first five tracks, section two is "Whispers and Moans" through to "All I Ask" and section three is the final part of the album. I think section one and section three both have a great flow where it feels very natural and organic how one song is followed by the next, whereas section two to my ears shoots off in all kinds of directions and doesn't have that natural flow. I love "Whispers and Moans", "Four Seasons in One Day" and "All I Ask" and quite like "There Goes God", so I'm not talking about the quality of the songs in this section two, more that they seem randomly thrown together and "Whispers and Moans" following straight after "Weather With You" also seems a bit shoe-horned. This is probably a consequence of actually merging what was originally intended to be two separate records. It's a bit ironic that we know from Chris Bourke's book that Neil went through a period of writer's block in 1989/90, yet when Crowded House and Finn Brothers merged there were too many songs to choose from. In addition to the 14 tracks on Woodface, there were "Sacred Cow, "Left Hand", "Fields are Full of Your Kind", "I Love You Dawn", "Time Immemorial", "Dr. Livingstone", "Anyone Can Tell", "My Legs Are Gone", "Lester" and "My Telly's Gone Bung" plus "In Love With It All", "Strangeness & Charm", "Catherine Wheel" and "Prodigal Son" and probably some others that we don't know about. I can imagine that the selection ultimately chosen for Woodface had many factors to take into consideration, eg. there had to be X number of Finn Brothers songs but not more than that, at least Y number of songs written by Neil alone and perhaps also that Paul should have one track on the album.

    Lyrically, I think the album lacks a narrative of the kind that made both Temple of Low Men and Tim Finn such great records, and even the Phil Manzanera Southern Cross tracks that we discussed earlier had a fascinating narrative when put together. On Woodface, I think the quality of the lyrics is a bit uneven. "Chocolate Cake", "There Goes God" and "Fame Is" sound like (misguided) attempts at satire that seem very dated now, the lyrics of "Tall Trees" are like fluff and the lyrics of "It's Only Natural", great track as it is, sound a bit generic, like it could have been written by any songwriters. I think it's fair enough if both Tim and Neil felt, after their respective previous albums, that they wanted to write different kind of lyrics this time and that it was important for their personal well-being to not agonise too much over every single lyric. The other songs have great lyrics though.

    I love listening to Woodface, but I also feel it is a collection of 14 songs (most of them top notch) put together rather than a completely cohesive unity with a narrative.

  19. Paul H

    Paul H The fool on the hill

    Nottingham, UK
    I remember listening to Woodface for the first time. I'd been besotted by DDIO and Something So Strong so many years earlier but had abandoned them through a combination of low student income and fear that they'd played all their best cards on those singles.

    When Fall at Your Feet and then Weather With You took off in the UK, I was hooked. But being broke, I had to save for Woodface. My girlfriend, who was working, took pity on me and bought the album for me.

    I went to meet her at her parents' house one Friday evening prior to a night out and she gave me the album. I carried it around all night and when, finally, I got home - worse for wear, of course - I popped the disc into my portable CD player, clambered into bed and hit Play.

    I can still remember lying in the dark, half drunk, listening to song after song, each one thinking "I'm gonna love that one". Sheer perfection.

    I agree with those who say that CH were better - less polished - live but I also think the studio recordings are perfect. As much as I adore Woodface - it kicked off a musical obsession that remains strong to this day, and CH dominated my listening in the 1990's in much the same way as the Beatles had dominated it during the previous decade - it isn't perfect.

    My ideal Woodface would remove Tall Trees, Fame Is and All I Ask, and replace them with Dr Livingstone. Now we have a perfect record.

    My big regret about this album, is that details on its genesis are still somewhat sketchy. I'd love to know which songs were recorded when, which ones were Finn Bros-only efforts and which ones were hybrids. Maybe the info is already out there and I just haven't pieced it all together.

    I recall reading Bourke's book avidly trying to piece it together and getting totally baffled by the timeline. It later occurred to me that his references to the seasons didn't tally with my own (northern hemisphere) expectation about which time of year he was talking about!

    Even so, I'm still not sure I really know how Woodface was created. Anyway, it's a work of genius that would stand as their best outing if it weren't for their recording activities over the following 18 months or so.

    My adoration of this record was such that I did something I'd never done before: on a whim, I bought a single ticket to see them play in Nottingham only a few weeks after I'd first heard the album. I can still picture myself there. I could tell you where in the auditorium I sat. Hessie had me entranced the whole night. Hilarious. I've laughed less at comedy nights.

    The things that struck me were that a) they could and would play almost anything from their catalogue, b) they could make songs up as they went along (Green Rose for George is from that night), and c) even though I only knew around half of their set list, I loved every song they played that night.

    I'm fortunate to have audience tapes of most of the CH shows I attended and, although the quality is really rough, the tape I have of that night in Nottingham is a prized possession. It captures the moment that my life went from Before CH to After CH.
    NorthNY Mark, JCo, brownie61 and 9 others like this.
  20. audiomac

    audiomac Forum Resident

    Woodface, the album.

    By the way, where did the album name come from? Was it just one of Nick's paintings that they liked, which kind of named itself?

    Yes, well, Woodface is a classic album. Not perfect, but worthy of labelling a classic. Yes, it suffers a bit from multi personality syndrome, but that's due to it's already discussed, and well known, genesis, which makes the album what it is and probably saved CH at the time and gave a welcome boost to Tim's career. A time of turmoil for sure, but they created something beautiful.

    The album is a mixture of sweet, heartwarming, sunny, deep and melancholic songs, and quirky, light, funny and rocking songs, with Chocolate Cake, Tall trees, There Goes God, Fame Is, Italian Plastic and I'm Still here fitting into the latter, and the rest into the former.

    There are other songs that didn't make the album but I've never made my own Woodface version playlist and I don't think I would, it is what it is; a bit White album-esque if you like.

    You could change the track sequence, or substitute a b-side, but I still get to enjoy those b-sides and anyway, doing so would just change the whole feel of the album.

    I would rate the album 4.75 purely because there is better yet to come ;)
  21. jcr64

    jcr64 Forum Resident

    "Woodface" is Crowded House's masterpiece. A complicated and in many ways unintended masterpiece, an amalgam of two separate projects forced on them by the record company. But a masterpiece nonetheless.

    I know that many consider "Together Alone" the band's masterpiece, and (not to get too far ahead of ourselves), I can see some merit in that position. "Together Alone" is greater than the sum of its parts in a way that "Woodface" isn't quite. But the quality of the parts in "Woodface" is just astonishing. If I'm remembering correctly, I gave six of the 14 songs on "Woodface" a score of 5 (representing true classics), and an additional three songs a score of 4 (representing very strong and enjoyable work that doesn't quite measure up to classic status). That's a fairly astounding level of high quality, even from a committed Finn fan like me. The band performance is strong throughout (despite the inner turmoil during the album's creation), Froom does his best work with Crowded House, and the harmonies of Neil and Tim are simply sublime.

    Like Lance, I bought "Woodface" when it was released but for whatever reason wasn't really struck by it until 1997. But when it hit, it hit hard. This is easily one of my top five favorite albums of all time; it may even be my favorite.

    (There's a caveat, and that's "I'm Still Here." We're discussing that tomorrow, right?)

    D.B., DonnieT, robcar and 6 others like this.
  22. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle Prince of Swollen Sinus Thread Starter

    Tomorrow yes. Are you going to rain on its parade?
  23. jcr64

    jcr64 Forum Resident

    That would be telling. ;)
  24. audiomac

    audiomac Forum Resident

    In 2025, two years after this thread has finished, one of us will come back and say I’M STILL HERE
    D.B., AudioEnz, brownie61 and 6 others like this.
  25. jcr64

    jcr64 Forum Resident


Share This Page