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. NorthNY Mark

    NorthNY Mark Forum Resident

    Canton, NY, USA
    Interesting discussion about the lack of "payoff" in a lot of Liam's songs, and even some of Neil's recent output. I think I understand pretty much exactly what people mean by this, and I've been thinking about it for the past several years. My hypothesis is that what seems like a lack of musical payoff is very much a preference (not sure whether it's conscious or unconscious) by younger generations (though not exclusively), in part to differentiate themselves from earlier songwriting approaches. I've noticed that a lot of the newer music (by newer artists) I've been enjoying over the past few years seems to be strongly influenced by genres like ambient, minimalism, and post-rock, where lengthy tracks seem to be about the exploration of textures that go through very gradual transformations over the length of a track. To the extent that there is a climax in many of these tracks, it may be simply the end point of a gradual build-up of textures, rather than a tension-release structure of "verse-bridge-chorus-middle eight-solo-bigger chorus" that we often think of as "good pop songwriting."

    I actually suspect that to a lot of people around Liam's age and younger, the more traditional pop structure may come across as naive and/or cliched--a bit like the way elaborate rock solos might have sounded to the punk generation in 1976. The more textural approach may just feel more authentic, like it's not "trying too hard."

    Obviously this isn't true of all music made and enjoyed by younger people (just like the punk approach was far from universal in 1976-77), but I feel like it's been noticeable trend in the alternative rock and pop realms over the past decade or so. I have mixed feelings about it. There are times when I find it surprising that I often need to turn to older artists for more traditional rock/pop melodies with middle 8s and more obvious musical "payoffs." But I also would not want to be without a lot of this newer, more texturally-focused music either. I think part of its appeal is to encourage us to stop listening to the music as a means of getting to a "payoff," but to be more focused on the here-and-now throughout the track, in an almost meditative way. And I don't want to suggest that there is anything especially new about this approach, but more that it is becoming a bigger and more expected part of the mainstream than it had been before. In any event, I suspect we need to approach Liam's music without the expectation that verses are there to set the stage perfectly for a majestic chorus. I just don't think that's what he's intending to do.
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2021
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  2. BeSteVenn

    BeSteVenn little-known member

    The Nihilist seems to be a sly wink at his dad, listen here:

    I once again hear Liam's inherited vocal timbre in the vocals. I do wish there were a more substantial song, it sounds like the fade out to a fairly good song, but without the song, and the fade goes on too long.

    What I focused on to maintain my interest is Elroy's drumming He has just the right balance between consistent time-keeping and ramshackle fills. I hear bits of Ringo in the coda from Strawberry Fields Forever and bits of Wendy Melvoin on One Nil. Clearly he's been studying great drummers, not just Paul Hester.

    To continue what @NorthNY Mark is saying, my parents had the same complaint about my music in the 60s and 70s, they didn't hear the songs. In the past few years I've been adding songs from the 1920s-early 50s to my collection. Song styles change and I think we're in the midst of a new kind of song that people my age simply don't "get".

    I would like to rate The Nihilist higher, but I just hear a lot of ideas and elements that haven't been tied together, and I don't hear a song.

  3. HitAndRun

    HitAndRun Forum Resident

    The Nihilist

    I listened to this song this morning and decided to leave it a while and listen to it again this evening. To see if it had sunk in a bit.

    There are elements that I like here. The basic vocal melody is nice, and the various background vocals are interesting. The whole arrangement is spiky in a good way and inventive.

    However, and I repeat myself, there isn't enough variation here for me. I wouldn't even want a better bit of music to contrast the main theme with. Just ... something a bit more different.

    I think the coda, all of which is clever and interesting, would work better after a song with more variation.

    Here I think that Liam has been a bit too clever with the song, and hasn't put enough fundamental interest into the basic song. It's just a bit too little musical substance being arranged with a little too much effort.

    It wouldn't take more to make this song much more palatable I think. I'm not saying that Liam should because it's his music and he can do what he wants. And, with the 5/5s and 4s we've seen so far, this works for some people so he has an audience. But, it doesn't quite work for me. However, it works enough to get it into the threes. A nicely contrasting bridge (which I presume Liam decided not to include) would have bumped it into the 4s for me, but probably annoyed the people who like the song just the way it is. (reference intended.)

  4. dthomas850

    dthomas850 Forum Resident

    Cleveland, Ohio
    Really hard for me to not just give 5's across the board for every track on this album, it's quite an aural experience unlike any other. Oh, what the hell!
    The Nihilist - Great groove, love Elroy's drumming, nice phased/flange guitar, and the trippy outro starting around 3:00 is so cool! Another perfect track.
  5. jcr64

    jcr64 Forum Resident

    As Lance says, "The Nihilist" is intentionally grating, and for me, that's enough to kill the song. I can't deny that the production is meticulously constructed, and I can't deny that the song is somewhat effective as a nightmare. That's not enough to make the song something I want to listen to.

  6. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle Prince of Swollen Sinus Thread Starter

    Our votes for "The Nihilist"

    Average: 3.0042
  7. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle Prince of Swollen Sinus Thread Starter

    Today's song is "Snug As F***", written and produced by Liam Finn and recorded by Chris Boosahda and Liam Finn. Mixed by Andrew Everding and Liam Finn.

    Liam Finn: vocals, guitar, bass, synth strings "and bleeps and bloops"
    Eliza-Jane Barnes: co-lead vocals
    Jol Mulholland: synth
    Andrew Keoghan: violin
    Elroy Finn: drums

    This song was released as the lead single from The Nihilist. A live version was released on the streaming album Live with the Dream Team on the Roof of [the end]

    When you hung me up
    When my heart dried out
    Just like the flu
    On a windowsill
    I'm taking us back to the city
    And your mind don't know
    I can hear her cry
    Was it something I did
    In a past life
    But she can't compare you to her sister
    I was the leader of a pack
    But now I holler in a high voice
    I've done what you will never do
    Look away with your eye full of hope
    Cause I'm a hopeless sap
    And I'm sleeping out in the wilderness
    With my feet and thoughts by the fire
    You know, you know, you know
    Oh, we're snug as ****
    And someday soon
    Like I'm all wrapped up
    In the innocence
    Won't you get it over so quickly
    Oh, I have a habit of attack
    To smell the white force,
    Oh, black fangs, alligator teeth
    This the type of a girl you would fight for
    I've seen what you will never see
    Doesn't pay being careful
    Oh, and I've done what you will never do
    Look away with your eye full of hope
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  8. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle Prince of Swollen Sinus Thread Starter

    Live version -- it's great!:
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  9. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle Prince of Swollen Sinus Thread Starter

    Now that I know what is meant by "Payoff" means, I will say too things: first of all, you are right: I agree there is a lack of payoff in his songs, but that is definitely not the point. Second of all, I think that the lack of pay-off doesn't really bother me because I sort of feel where it's coming from.

    To me his stuff is very rooted in artier side of punk and punk-rock music -- and not really all that related to Neil's music. I do think that people come at Liam through Neil and when they don't get Neil-like music, they are disappointed. But he really is his own animal. I am a great fan of post-punk -- Sandinista! by the Clash and Wire's first two albums are both records that this album reminds me off and to some extent the BARB album and some of his wilder excursions. Texture over movement, creating an pretty or an abrasive atmosphere rather than making a song -- it's not un-melodic but that's not the point, of it, at least not on this album.

    LIam main influences seem to be eighties New Wave, punk, and late eighties early-to-mid nineties alternative artists, including Frank Black, Nirvana and Beck. There are dashes of other stuff in there, like soul and R&B but it's just a dash here and there.

    He also has this kind of strong folk-pop vein in his music but it seems to interest him less -- that is why I think Neil fans get frustrated because those are the bits they like. It's very likely that he deliberately eschewed that post I'll Be Lightning simply because it invites comparisons to Neil and that must annoy him. And frankly, he probably does feel like that's less interesting.

    Me, I like almost every kind of music except really sappily commercial pop (and even that I can somtimes enjoy) so it's all fine with me.
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2021
  10. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle Prince of Swollen Sinus Thread Starter

    I wrote last night but deleted because I wasn't sure if my memory was correct.

    If there is a pun on Neil's name, then I'd say that it was more directed at his father's fans, but apparently there is not a pun here.

    He doesn't pronounce it the UK way. He pronounces it like "Nile-ist", Not "Neil-ist."

    See this interview, it's right at the very beginning. -- The interviewer (who is also a Kiwi) prounounces it Nile-ist, and he says "that's right, you said that correctly", indicating that he definitely wanted to get away from that association.

    It's a good interview overall, you can see that things are still coming together for him -- in the end, he ended up touring; here he kind of sounds like he doesn't know what's going to happen.

    One interesting thing is that it seems after FOMO that he did a really ambitious, long tour that really was more than he and the band could handle.
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2021
  11. drewrclv9

    drewrclv9 Forum Resident

    Metro Detroit, MI
    Absolutely wonderful song right here; maybe the most FOMO sounding one as well. Amazing effects all around that compliment the gorgeous melodies in the verses and chorus. I love how much the second chorus is built upon from the first. The bass during the fantastic guitar solo is brilliant. Just overall a great example of Liam knocking it out of the park in terms of song craft. I love just about everything here, and this is definitely one of my favorite Liam solo songs.

  12. NorthNY Mark

    NorthNY Mark Forum Resident

    Canton, NY, USA
    Not quite sure what to make of this one. It reminds me a bit of the sort of "plastic soul" we heard Neil doing on parts of Dizzy Heights. I'm imagining that those who strongly disliked that album will not much care for this one, either. I kind of liked it, and I'm liking this one as well, and even find Liam's dense arrangements to be a little more interesting so far than many of Neil's. Here, some very cool swirling keyboard parts kind of make the track for me, and I like the sound of the bass as well. The little drum fill right when he sings the title line is a highlight. There's not much about the melody or the vocal that really grabs me, but it's a pleasantly groovy listen that fits well within the sonic word of the previous two tracks: 3.9/5
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2021
  13. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle Prince of Swollen Sinus Thread Starter

    "Snug As ****" is another one that grew on me. At first I thought it was incredibly boring, with some nice keyboard sounds; now I think it's quite beautiful and Liam and EJ's voices really combine in this weird way that gives this sense of androgyny to the vocal -- that at first was kind of unpleasant to me, I thought it was Liam trying to be weird, but then I realized it was actually a real female singing and for some reason I quickly grew to like it.

    There's a kind of "fake-soul" thing going on with this song, the type of thing that BARB was all about -- and in a couple of places it grates -- and I'm not sure that that's an intentional grating.

    Lyrically, I couldn't tell you what this song was about. It seems to be a collection of impressions, some pleasant, some unpleasant, but the overall effect of the lyrics and sound makes me uneasy.

    I'd guess this song just makes me feel lonely and strange.

    The music is dreamlike and sparkly. I really like the melodic Pet Sounds-style bass guitar in this, just an incredible bass line -- and some gorgeous keyboard textures and atmospheres. I'd say this is another song without a "traditional pay off," but I see it more as this weird, shimmery dream, a world unto itself, a discernible verse-chorus-verse structure would break that. Some really nice guitar playing too in that coda, nice phrasing. He'd really developed as a guitarist I think from his earlier stuff.

    However the sound-- ugh. Too flat. It really does this song no favors. For that reason, I much prefer the live version above, which adds nor subtracts nothing but somehow seems just right to me. Plus those guys look really cool.

    Anyway, overall, I'll give this one a 4/5

    And the video. WTF! I hate videos but if you're going to make a video, you might as well just make it as weird as possible, I guess this is somehow meant to suggest some weird symbolic dream.
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2021
  14. NorthNY Mark

    NorthNY Mark Forum Resident

    Canton, NY, USA
    Looks like our impressions are very similar on this one! About those live rooftop performances, I was surprised by how faithful they were to the studio versions, to the extent that I wondered if they were truly live. If they were, they certainly did an impressive job of recreating the feel of the studio versions. In any case, it was nice to hear the track without seeing that creepy (and arguably somewhat trans-phobic) video! I initially gave it a lower score after having just seen the video, but then watched the live version, and then repeated the video (for the studio version) without actually looking at it, and enjoyed the song a lot more--enough to completely re-edit my original write-up to make it more positive.
  15. drewrclv9

    drewrclv9 Forum Resident

    Metro Detroit, MI
    I actually didn’t know that was EJ singing with him here until much later. I thought it was just Liam pitched up. And yeah, I thought the same thing watching that video for the first time a little bit ago; it’s just about the weirdest video ever, but I like it a lot because of that haha.
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  16. NorthNY Mark

    NorthNY Mark Forum Resident

    Canton, NY, USA
    It almost seems like the video is meant to be a surrealist send-up of the kind of earnest celebration of familial love and bonding that we got so much of on Everyone Is Here. I recall him doing a very impressive homage to surrealist filmmaking in a much earlier video, so it appears to be a well from which he likes to draw.
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2021
  17. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle Prince of Swollen Sinus Thread Starter

    Creepy is the right word.

    I didn't get "trans-phobic", really, but I wasn't looking out for it either; I was just wondering if that trans guy was actually trans friend or some guy just acting weird; I think there's a lot of sexually ambiguous stuff going on in that video, though. And throughout Liam's non-musical stuff, like promo photos and such. IN a typical kind of rock way, actually.

    It was thinking something similar, like this might be a real nightmarish take on a real family birthday party, then I started looking to see who Tim and Neil were then I gave up at that game about the time the rats made their appearance.
  18. NorthNY Mark

    NorthNY Mark Forum Resident

    Canton, NY, USA
    Yeah, by "trans-phobic" I don't mean that I think the person was meant to be an actual trans person, but just that I don't think it's an accident that the gender-bending seems to be related directly to the intended creepiness factor. It isn't homophobia, but rather a phobic reaction based on "incorrect" gender presentation, hence trans-phobia. The phobic aspect didn't come so much from the character simply appearing in the video, but rather by focusing so heavily on everyone drinking that red beverage made from the cross-dresser's feet, which seemed to combine a whole bunch of common phobias into a single image.

    I admittedly have some academic background in psychoanalytic interpretation, but I don't think you have to be super familiar with psychoanalysis to see the Freudian implications everywhere in that video: incest, fetishism, cross-dressing, bodily fluids, vermin, etc. The video actually is a very interesting case study in Freudian-based surrealism, IMHO, but it succeeds a little too well in creeping me out, and the exploitation of what I can't help but see as trans-phobia (however fitting for the surrealistic intention) makes me uncomfortable. But I don't think Liam is exactly shy about making people uncomfortable (and I also can't help but to give him some credit for that).

    And since I notice "Wrestle with Dad" is coming up later, I don't expect we're quite finished with the satirical Freudian subtexts yet.
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2021
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  19. HitAndRun

    HitAndRun Forum Resident

    Snug as F***

    I've listened to both the album and live versions. The live version is performed very well and recorded well too.

    However, I think the fundamental song doesn't quite catch my attention. I find the bass part a bit annoying. And I feel there isn't enough here melodically to catch my attention.

    That doesn't mean that I just like nice-nice pop music and I'm just sore that this isn't it. At least: I don't think so. I've heard lots of left-field music which still had a stronger more interesting melody than this.

  20. brownie61

    brownie61 Forum Resident

    Snug as ****

    This is a much more conventional song than the previous two. It has a nice melody, but the vocals grate. I see now that’s not all Liam, but is Liam with EJ. But it’s just too much very high-pitched singing for me. The Chipmunks spring to mind. There needs to be a lower voice in there to balance it out for me. I like the last minute of the song better - the instrumental part - which is where the production gets more interesting. I love the sweeping synthesizers undulating like an ocean wave, and the guitar is very good too.

    Again, this track loses a lot for me when I listen to it in isolation from the rest of the album and think about it too much.

    Last edited: Jun 8, 2021
  21. Anne_G

    Anne_G Forum Resident

    Snug As ****

    I really enjoyed this one. I love the keyboard sounds, the guitar, the drumming. A song that is actually interesting, not just being weird to sound weird.

    By the time The Pixies made Trompe le Monde, Black and Kim’s voices had morphed in to sounding exactly the same. I always thought that was cool and I like that effect here too. It is the ultimate in collaboration and feels very intimate.

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  22. KangaMom

    KangaMom Queen of the Quokkas

    Snug as F*** - I really like the sound of this song particularly the synths. I, too, grappled a little with the high pitched vocal. Now that I'm listening to the live version (as I type) it doesn't bother me at all. (Actually I'm a little surprised that this is live - it sounds very similar to the recorded version). This is a pretty well constructed song.

    @NorthNY Mark thanks for the analysis of the video! I started watching it, then had to scroll away from it because I was totally weirded out by it (and I hadn't even got to the rats!). Surrealist, is the vibe I get from it, and being somewhat disembodied from life. But I only watched about the first minute before I had to avert my eyes...

    Following on from what @Lance LaSalle, even though I like Liam's folk-pop vibe, I think it's probably a good choice for him to move away from this style. The inevitable comparisons to Neil are probably tedious from Liam's point of view and devalue the type of music Liam does produce well...such as this song.

  23. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle Prince of Swollen Sinus Thread Starter

    Collated ratings for Dizzy Heights
    1. Impressions 3.1357
    2. Dizzy Heights 3.7636
    3. Flying In the Face of Love 3.7237
    4. Divebomber 2.4143
    5. Better Than TV 3.3286
    6. Pony Ride 3.7238
    7. White Lies and Alibis 3.6386
    8. Recluse 3.5524
    9. Strangest Friends 3.2684
    10. In My Blood 3.4529
    11. The Lights of New York 2.1339
    Dizzy Heights: 3
    Average by song: 3.2851

    • Your Next Move 3.4412
    • Animal Vs Human 2.7316
    • You and I Know 3.4286
    • Song of the Lonely Mountain 3.4063
    • The Wind Was On the Withered Heath 4.0321
    • Who's In Control 3.5423
    • We Just Like the Questions [demo] 2.34
    • Give Into Sadness 3.7231
    • Blue Smoke 3.3889
    • Throw Your Arms Around Me 2.9
    • Through the Valley 3.3286
    • Spotify Sessions 4.375
    • iTunes Sessions 4.65
    • Goin' Your Way 4.7
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  24. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle Prince of Swollen Sinus Thread Starter

    Yeah. Who knows about the future, but he seems to have sort of moved back in that direction with Lightsleeper....and of course the Crowded House record, but since both of them are Neil-related (and the second one definitely Neil-dominated) it makes sense.
  25. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle Prince of Swollen Sinus Thread Starter

    I personally believe the live recording is truly live, just really well produced/recorded/mixed; but, who knows, maybe it was sweetened and fixed up in the studio afterwards.

    It definitely sounds like a different performance: in fact, it's much tighter than the studio version, I think. This band had some kind of residency at a club for long time so I think they had had plenty of opportunity to get really good by this point.

    But hearing how good they are makes me wish that THIS was the album, not least because it's just sounds better.
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