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. Michaelpeth

    Michaelpeth Forum Resident

    Location:
    Durham, UK
    Marvellous song. Really love the 5/4 rhythm. Did a 26 mile walk round Ullswater for Alzheimer's Society earlier this year and this was always my start off song when I was going out for a walk. Its alongside Nobody wants to and Kare Kare as CH's best opening tracks. 5/5
     
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  2. jcr64

    jcr64 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Indiana
    As an opening number, "Bad Time Good" is nothing like "Mean to Me," which grabbed your attention and compelled you to listen. It's not even like the slower "Nobody Wants To,"which drew you in with Nick's opening bass line and then with a lovely sad melody. "Bad Time Good," by contrast, left me feeling deflated and disappointed the first time I heard it (which was the first time I listened to Dreamers Are Waiting). Having now listened to it a fair bit, I've come to appreciate its charm: I think it manages the shifting time signatures deftly (not an easy thing to do), and the bridge is terrific. It definitely feels like a band song, not a Neil Finn solo song (not surprising, given its origin in a jam). It's just not immediately clear that the band in question is Crowded House.

    Neil has had challenging opening songs before ("Kare Kare," anyone), so that's not really the problem (and "Kare Kare," despite being challenging, did a good job of setting up the album as a bold departure from Woodface). And I think the song works reasonably well if you forget the fact that it's the album's opening track. It's just that, as an opening number, it's not terribly memorable; what it does best as an opening song, I think, is lead into the quirky opening of "Playing with Fire."

    3.5/5
     
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  3. brownie61

    brownie61 Forum Resident

    I think I would pay money to feel this way about this song. Nobody Wants To and Kare Kare are both 5/5’s in my book. I am happy for you that you feel Bad Times Good is equivalent to these songs.

    *wanders off muttering “What am I missing??”*
     
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  4. jcr64

    jcr64 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Indiana
    Whatever it is, I'm missing it, too. I think "Bad Time Good" is a decent song, but nothing about it says "all-time great" to me. But I'm glad it says that to others, like @Michaelpeth. Yet another demonstration that response to music is deeply personal.
     
  5. Paul H

    Paul H The fool on the hill

    Location:
    Nottingham, UK
    I don't think I've read the word "mellow" so many times in such a short space of time since I last read the lyrics to Elton John's song of that name :)

    But yes, mellow it is. And beautiful too, in an understated way. This song reminds me of Nobody Wants To; not so much in terms of the music itself, but in the sense I have that it will sneak up on me. At the moment, I like it. But not much more. However, I have a strong suspicion that one day I'll put it on and it will knock my socks off. The quirky time signature tickles my musical funny bone and, yeah, there's something comforting about it, like a bowl of porridge. The flavour won't knock you out but sometimes it's just what you need.

    I'm going to give this a 4/5, not because I like it that much but because I think one day I will :)
     
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  6. StefanWq

    StefanWq Forum Resident

    Location:
    Vallentuna, Sweden
    "Bad Times Good" is quite good as an opening track on the album. I hear it as a humble, low-key intro song well performed by the new line-up and they do sound musically comfortable with each other. This song sets a reflective mood that is fitting for the album. It's not an album highlight for me but it's a good start.
    3,4/5
     
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  7. DanP

    DanP Forum Resident

    Location:
    Sydney, Australia
    Bad Times Good

    I really love this one - an album highlight. Like many, I always feel Neil's ostensibly 'pop' melodic sensibility comes with an undercurrent of melancholy and, sometimes, eeriness. To me, I don't hear the 'breeziness' others do. I love the textures of the main acoustic guitars (there's a nice rhythmic tension between the tail of that ascending lick and the drums that really catches my ear) and 5/4 is one of my favourite time signatures for a band to experiment with. I also like opening songs that try to set the stage or act an overture for the whole LP rather than inviting people in with the first single.

    I'm sure I won't be the first to say that I liked the singles far better once in the context of the whole LP; this song has a lot to do with that.

    I love it. 5/5. Might actually vote for my first time on the thread!
     
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  8. This is decent - I could see it being a grower, but not anything I ever got REALLY into. I don't mind it but it hasn't grabbed me yet. I can't score it higher on spec, though.

    3.5/5
     
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  9. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle Prince of Swollen Sinus Thread Starter

    Our votes for "Bad Times Good"

    1-0
    2-1
    3-4
    4-8
    5-2
    Average: 3.7967
     
  10. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle Prince of Swollen Sinus Thread Starter

    Today's song is "Playing With Fire", written by Neil Finn, Liam Finn, Elroy Finn, Nick Seymour and Mitchell Froom. Produced by Crowded House. Recorded by David Boucher and Crowded House; mixed by David Boucher.

    Crowded House – Playing with Fire Lyrics | Genius Lyrics

    Neil Finn: vocals, guitars
    Liam Finn: guitars, vocals
    Mitchell Froom: keyboards
    Nick Seymour: bass
    Elroy Finn: drums, percussion

    This was the third single from Dreamers Are Waiting, released before the album.
     
  11. Paul H

    Paul H The fool on the hill

    Location:
    Nottingham, UK
    Playing With Fire hasn't caught me yet (see what I did there?). I find the melody mildly annoying, as if they were deliberately trying to be a-tonal but in a radio-friendly way. Sort of PiL-lite. And it doesn't really work. I don't dislike the song but I can't see it being a grower either. 3/5.
     
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  12. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle Prince of Swollen Sinus Thread Starter

    I assume that this also came from a jam that got developed into a song.

    This is more of a rocker and vaguely recalls songs like "In my Command" or "Kill Eye", but the touch is a good deal lighter and funkier, I think. But then it wort of blossoms unexpectedly into this sunshine pop Turtles-esque thing that I actually quite like, including the synth horns and sing-along chorus.

    I suppose the lyric has to do with the vague feeling that we might be screwing up things for the next generations. Perhaps Neil having two grandchildren probably plays into this. And it's interesting that some of the lyrics are post-Covid. This is one of the earlier songs in my collection that I think address that, though Harper Finn's "Dance Away These Days" might also be influenced by the situation. In fact, though, I don't have a lot of music from 2020 and 2021 anyway so who knows?

    But mostly the lyric is the usual jumbled mish mash of impressions: there's some vaguely menacing stuff about "The Chairman", but as that makes absolutely no sense, and doesn't connect with me in the hard-to-describe way that Neil's lyrics sometimes do, I just disregard the words for the most part in this song.

    4.1/5

    I hate the sound of this album. There's a lot going on here but the way it's all smashed together, gives me a headache. I have to listen to this at like a really low volume on headphones. Playing with the equalizer helps but then it sounds all unbalanced.
     
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  13. ToneM

    ToneM Forum Resident

    Location:
    Birmingham, UK
    Playing With Fire

    Neil's turned out some experimental and widely variable material of late, but occasionally it's just great to hear him blast out a corker of a pop tune. Playing With Fire has most everything I could ask for from a Crowded House song; spiky, angular playing, the welcome return of Neil's yelping rock vocal and one hell of a hook. Brass can be hit or miss for me, but even that works wonderfully here, benefitting from being used sparingly.

    This is a brilliantly constructed song that builds to an exuberant, cacophonous climax. My only minor quibble would be that it does meander a little towards the end, petering out in the final 30 seconds. However, I love the rest and although it's possible I may tire of it, this has rarely been off my turntable/headphones the past few months.

    4.75/5
     
  14. Anne_G

    Anne_G Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    Bad Times Good: I was lukewarm on the singles but when I heard this opener at the release “party” I fell in love with it immediately. They still have it. It has a nice Together Alone (album) feel that I love. With the new lineup they are different but still unmistakably CH. 5/5

    Playing With Fire: Total CH sound. Poppy and melodic. Didn’t think much of it as a single but on the album flow it works for me. I really like the extra instrumental at that flows at the end in to the next song. I love Crowded House! 3.75/5
     
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  15. BeSteVenn

    BeSteVenn little-known member

    I can't get past one of the lines of Playing With Fire, it's a common phrase on a pseudo-news channel in the US where they introduce abhorrent ideas prefaced by that phrase, it's part of their echo chamber. I won't state the phrase here because I don't want to ruin the song for those of us who like the song. It's very possible Neil is taking a swipe at that channel with this song, but I don't want to be reminded of those horrible people and their agenda.

    Take that line away, and I still don't think it's a great song on its own, but it works well in the context of Dreamers Are Waiting. Again, I would move the song much further back in the track list. I'm skirting saying this song is filler, but it is very good filler.

    3.8/5
     
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  16. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle Prince of Swollen Sinus Thread Starter

    There's a quote on the genius.com website about this song from Neil:

     
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  17. UrAWizHar

    UrAWizHar Forum Resident

    Location:
    Scotland
    Bad Times Good 2/5 It's ok as a standalone song but it's a dreadful choice to start the album off, it's just so slight and ignorable and immediately sets the album up as being something to put on as polite background music and nothing more. It just isn't exciting in the same way that most of CH's opening tracks are.

    Playing with Fire 2/5 One of the more straightfoward poppy songs on the album and it has a decent energy, but i dislike the brass intensely and the lyrics are woeful.
     
  18. jcr64

    jcr64 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Indiana
    "Playing with Fire" strikes me as another good but not great song. I like the angular start to the verses (great description,, @ToneM), but then the song loses me a bit in the chorus and middle eight--it's clearly aiming for a rousing chorus, but I think it tries too hard and comes off feeling forced. The horns contribute to this. I don't mean to suggest that this is a bad song--it isn't. But it just doesn't quite land with me. I'm also not wild about Elroy's drumming here--for the most part he does a serviceable job on the album, but there are some weaknesses here

    3.5/5

    I agree with@Lance LaSalle that the album sounds pretty terrible. It's not the worst of the Finn albums of the last ten years (hello, Elroy), but it's definitely squashed (you can hear this particularly on the drums) and lacking in air and cclarity. I've listened to it on two different stereo systems (using the CD) and on my iPhone with pretty good headphones (using Qobuz), and it never sounds truly good. I shouldn't have to mess with equalization to get decent sound, and I don't think doing so would cure this recording's flaws anyway. I just don't understand the supposed appeal of squashed, muddy sound. For some reason (probably unfairly), I find myself blaming Liam.
     
  19. KangaMom

    KangaMom Queen of the Quokkas

    Playing with Fire - I'm a bit torn on this song. There's part of me that likes the pop sensibility and the idea behind the lyrics (joy tempered with possible doom) but the synth horns veer dangerously close into cheese territory. I find them intrusive in a way I didn't expect, and yet, if they were less synth-y I'd think they would be just fine (and indeed necessary). The song serves as a pretty good segue into the following song...this is a nice little bonus.

    Two songs in and I think the biggest difference from any previous Crowded House album is the vocal harmonies which is not very surprising given the band member additions. There are definitely elements that remind me of The Beach Boys.

    I kind of like the video - the somewhat weird awkwardness - full marks to Nick's costuming. If you are going to go for all white, you may as well go for feathers as well.

    3.7/5
     
  20. brownie61

    brownie61 Forum Resident

    Playing With Fire

    This is my favorite of the three singles from this album. The song takes a little while to get going (I think the verses are the weakest part of the song), but I think the brass (fake or not, it sounds real enough to me) really adds a lot. Without the brass I don’t think I’d like the song as much. There are some good unexpected twists and turns that keep me interested. At this point I don’t know what’s a bridge and what’s a chorus because there seem to be many different parts to this song, structurally. But it works very well.

    3.75/5
     
  21. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle Prince of Swollen Sinus Thread Starter

    :laugh:
    I think that blaming Liam for squashed dynamics on an album in 2o21 is probably unfair! but funny. Let’s blame him for the All Things Must Pass reissue too!

    Equalising doesn’t really help much or it creates different problems on this one. It’s really densely packed music like all Finn/Froom productions and that just sounds worse with the lack of headroom.

    No, I actually really like the songs on this album, more than most I think, but the sound really makes me stay away. I listen to this album once every week or two but I am constantly wincing. I can never get into the songs because of it.

    And I am by no means the most sensitive listener and my ‘phones (Sennheiser 599’s, I use iPod touch to drive them) are not cheap but nowhere near the highest end.

    Id also highlight (again) that the exquisitely arranged backing vocals on this album sound at times like they’ve been recorded on low bit-rate mp3, (and May have been, given the back story of the album with a lot of home recording). Just terribly recorded. And then squashed on top of that, they constantly clip, it seems.
     
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2021
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  22. KangaMom

    KangaMom Queen of the Quokkas

    Since I have cloth ears :), I can't really comment on the dynamics being bothersome. Since the DR and I guess subsequent (or concurrent) muddiness gets tagged a lot (not just on this thread) I do wonder if this is a "style". In other words, they are actually serving this up intentionally...I've definitely heard the statements that it's a consequence of listening on digital platforms and wondered if this is the whole picture.

    I will say that sometimes you listen to an old(er) album even on CD and I guess you notice just how much space they give on those recordings (my cloth ears can detect that at least!)
     
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  23. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle Prince of Swollen Sinus Thread Starter

    Yes it is a style, designed to make things louder and stand out on ear-buds or in the car or in laptop speakers. Yeah, it sounds ok on my laptop. But when I really listen that’s not what I want to listen to.

    It’s not a consequence of digital sound, though digital technology facilitates it, but digital is actually capable of more dynamic sound than analog, most classical music is recorded digitally and sounds great.

    It’s just a trend that started in the nineties with some rock bands and then took off. It’s been a problem on every Finn record since Everyone Is Here. Sometimes it’s done better than others.
     
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2021
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  24. KangaMom

    KangaMom Queen of the Quokkas

    Thanks for the explanation. As a scientist, I know about the digital/analog arguments and you're right about classical music being superbly recorded. But I guess one of the reasons for such squashed sound for rock/pop currently is that people don't really like having to adjust their listening to the really quiet bits and then to louder bits (which is strange, because that's how it is live). In any case, I thought it was a style as much as anything because when my kids play their music (while in the car with me) I "marvel" at the complete lack of any sound other than basically bass.

    (This is what you get when you make arrangements like if you drive, you control the music in the car - don't do it on long road trips with your kids who like that style of music).
     
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  25. Paul H

    Paul H The fool on the hill

    Location:
    Nottingham, UK
    Funny how we all feel so differently about songs from an artist we all love. Its these exact same things that turn me off this song.
     
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