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

    Well I don’t think Rock music should be as dynamic as classical but there is no reason why it can’t be somewhat dynamic.

    A dr. Range of 10 is usually ok for me, for example. Classical music goes to like 18. The old CH albums would be between 10 and 13, typically.

    I dont know. If it’s done right lower dr can sound all right and I think “Feeding The Gods”, for example kind of suits that style of mastering, or Betchadupa or something.

    I’m not categorically against it. Those examples have a lower dr than this album we are discussing. But they are also simple, loud rock.

    This is richly detailed, densely packed music and it really needs space, I think.
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2021
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  2. jcr64

    jcr64 Forum Resident

    Ironically, the last truly open, airy, dynamic Crowded House or Neil Finn record was Woodface, the last time Froom produced Crowded House. Granted, that was 30 year ago, at a time when stylistic trends were rather different (but were just beginning to change with the emergence of grunge).
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  3. HitAndRun

    HitAndRun Forum Resident

    Playing With Fire

    I too like this song. The comparisons I thought of for the verse are Love You Till The Day I Die, and In Your Command, so a 2/3 overlap with Lance.

    There are what appear to be references here. I agree with the Turtles comparison for the chorus, and the brass sounds like Beatles' Penny Lane era brass to me.

    Both the verse and chorus I find catchy. This morning I had to go somewhere (to a vaccination centre for a volunteer shift), and I listened once before I left. Then, with no music at my destination, this song was playing over and over in my head. It's sufficiently memorable, I believe, so long as I can give it the time it needs.

    Looking at the lyrics, they are quite obscure. But, I wonder if it's a song about bringing Crowded House back to life, with the 'next generation' being 2/5 of the band. And perhaps Neil feeling like he's 'playing with fire' to bring the band back like this. I have no idea who 'the chairman' would be in this circumstance. But, that doesn't worry me. Song lyrics and poetry are different. But, both allow ambiguity and the listener interpreting the lyrics they way that they want to. I'm happy to see the song being about rebuilding Crowded House in a covid-19 world, and I'm OK to not know who 'the chairman' is, other than a shadowy authority figure.

    The video is good. One way to view it is as a Las Vegas style performance. But, to an empty room with a mysterious old man in it. I like it that they aren't trying to hide their age.

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  4. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle Prince of Swollen Sinus Thread Starter

    Yep Before And After (not Neil or Froom) was the last really open one.

    The 1993 version (not the 2016) of Together Alone is still pretty good to me, though. As is Try Whistling This. (Though the Australian bonus disc is horrid.)

    I think it bothers me more here than, say, The Conversation, which is just as bad, because there is so much more going on here.

    Oh well it sounds better than BARB.
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  5. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle Prince of Swollen Sinus Thread Starter

    I actually don’t fully understand this business with dynamics. We are covering Mental Illness by Aimee Mann on another thread and it’s got about the same dr reading as this and while it doesn’t sound as good as Five Leaves Left or Paul Simon, two comparable albums I’ve been listening to a lot, it sounds ok to me.

    So it’s more than just dynamic range that goes into the sound of things, but my theory is that compression particularly sounds bad with densely packed arrangements, while simple, minimalist arrangements come off better.
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  6. vikinghomepage

    vikinghomepage Well-Known Member

    Well, I think Dreamers sounds just great.

    I like Playing With Fire a lot, excellent guitar hook, catchy singing, reasonable chorus. But yeah, the horns and the ba ba ba vocals were a terrible idea. It'd be cool if they played it live and left those bits out.
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  7. KangaMom

    KangaMom Queen of the Quokkas

    I think you are correct in thinking that the more dense the arrangements, the more separation you need. This kind of makes sense, even a small separation in range (maybe not easily discernible per se) can still end up separating the layers of sound better. As you say, sparser, or more simplistic music doesn't need as much range. It creates it's own separation. The classical music comparison with wider DR makes sense in the context of the range of musical instruments (and their frequency ranges) and their volume.

    My take on it is that it's similar to baking/making a layered cake. You can make a 10 layer cake but you aren't going to be able to discern the layers if you try to make it fit into a small space!
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  8. drewrclv9

    drewrclv9 Forum Resident

    Metro Detroit, MI
    I'm a little split on this track. I like the guitar and general sound of it, but I'm really not a big fan of the chorus at all. It's borderline annoying, specifically the backing vocals & brass sounds. It's also not catchy in my opinion; it makes the verses seem really wonderful, when in reality, I'd say they're more 'great'. Even the choral bridges are pretty lackluster.

    I'm of the opinion that two of the three singles released for this album are probably the weakest tracks on it (this being one of those two), but I still generally like this one. Lyrically I don’t know what’s going on, but that stupid quarantine line is already dated. Not almost dated. Dated (though not quite yet in Aus/NZ I guess). And the album just came out. All in all, this is a pretty good track, but the qualms I have about the chorus really bring it down.

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  9. Michael Rofkar

    Michael Rofkar Forum Resident

    Santa Rosa, CA
    "Playing with Fire" reminds me of old Chicago records ("Saturday in the Park", anyone?). It seems more like a silly exercise in retro sound than a serious song, and certainly doesn't sound like CH to me. 2.2/5
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  10. therunner

    therunner Forum Resident

    "Playing with Fire" is flirting on the line between catchy and irritating, with the horns just tipping it in the wrong direction. But there are enough different elements in the song to keep it interesting. And while the video is definitely cheesy, again it has enough to keep me watching; the randomness of cyclists, the old man, Liam in silver when everyone else is in white, Neil underwater with a seahorse, reminds me of the Go West video to "King Of Wishful Thinking" where increasingly ridiculous characters keep appearing, like ice hockey players, a man with a pneumatic drill, dancing elephants, the Pope, and so much more.

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  11. Paul H

    Paul H The fool on the hill

    Nottingham, UK
    With regard to DR measurements, they can be a bit misleading. The dynamic range is a measurement of the difference between the loudest peak and the quietest part. During the late 1980s/early 1990s it was usual to master albums with full (or nearly full) dynamic range. Then things started to get more and more compressed. This can be achieved simply by compressing (lowering the volume of) the louder parts. Alternatively, it can be achieved by literally cutting out the louder parts (limiting the maximum volume). Take an album like Woodface: this has a high dynamic range because the drums are mixed loud. One can greatly reduce the dynamic range simply by compressing or limiting the drums. While that may or may not be preferable, it doesn't affect the rest of the music. So you can greatly reduce the dynamic range of a track just by modifying one element.

    For example, Fall at Your Feet has a DR value of 12 on the original Woodface. By limiting the maximum volume by 5 dB (a huge amount), I can reduce the DR value to 8. And yet the vast majority of the track is left untouched. It still has that wide, open sound. But reducing the dynamic range so much also allows me to increase the overall volume of the track by 5dB, which makes it much much louder overall.

    Where the problem arises is when tracks are mixed and mastered in such a way that it affects the whole track, causing everything to be presented at the same, loud, volume. This automatically reduces dynamic range and creates the problems that have been outlined above. For music that is meant to be "straightforward" and loud, this kind of presentation isn't an issue. But, as Lance notes, it can be really frustrating on more intricate, textured mixes/performances.
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  12. KangaMom

    KangaMom Queen of the Quokkas

    Thank you for that really nuanced take on DR and loudness. That was really helpful!
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  13. Michaelpeth

    Michaelpeth Forum Resident

    Durham, UK
    Playing with Fire.....hated it when i first heard it. But I've grown to enjoy it. It's the best of the 3 singles. 4/5
  14. StefanWq

    StefanWq Forum Resident

    Vallentuna, Sweden
    "Playing With Fire" is a very special song to me. The previous single, "To The Island", was very good and felt like a most welcome return to form. At the time, I had been very disappointed by recent years' Finn events - "Lightsleeper" had underwhelmed me and was firmly a 1/5 album for me (thanks to the discussions we had about the album and its songs here on the forum thread I now appreciate it more, it's now a somewhat shaky but getting there 3/5 album for me), I wasn't keen on Neil joining Fleetwood Mac, I didn't really like the charity single Neil did with the Fleetwood Mac members and I thought the "Whatever You Want" single and video clip were both awful. So when "To The Island" was released it was such a relief, but would that prove to be an exception?
    "Playing With Fire" was released and I first heard it by watching the video clip (the first time I've heard a new Finn song this way). Musically, it's so immediate and catchy, with a slight retro feel yet also being very fresh and energetic. Love the guitar riff, the backing vocals, the brass players contributions, Elroy's drumming and the commitment Neil puts into his singing.
    Lyrically, I interpret it to be about two things, the pandemic and how it has affected both globally and individually, and also climate issues. By the time this song was released, the pandemic had been going on for over a year. There had been lockdowns and restrictions, social life had been limited for a long time, concerts were cancelled or postponed, the cinemas and theatres here were closed and so on. Both my wife and I had been working from home since mid-March 2020 (except that I had been back at the office between mid-August and late October last year). She used to hate the commuting we did to work each day, pre-pandemic, and found that aspect of the pandemic being something positive ("my wife is wild in quarantine"...). I was well aware that I'm very privileged to have good health, a house to live in with our car parked outside, a well-paid full-time enployment etc, but I also found the seemingly endless lockdown difficult to deal with.
    Between mid-August and late October last year, my colleagues and I were back at the office. I avoided public transport and after having parked the car at my wife's job place (she has a free parking space in central Stockholm which I could use) I would walk to our office. On my way there, I'd walk past (between) the Swedish parliament buildings and every Friday morning I'd see Greta Thunberg and her Fridays For Future group sitting outside the Parliament buildings. It was very inspiring, especially during the year of the pandemic, to see them and their devotion to such an important matter. I admire their dedication, their determination, their wisdom. "And this time let's all be quiet / The next generation's talking". I interpret the song title to mean that if mankind doesn't address environmental concerns more seriously and do it now, we are playing with fire and it can have serious repercussions - but there is hope, as Greta Thunberg and thousands and thousands of teenagers around the world have shown by their commitment to turning things around.
    So, in many ways I think "Playing With Fire" captures a lot of 2020, and does so in a very life-affirming and joyous way. To me, the song and its wonderful video clip give me a real energy boost every time.
    The video clip is above all so joyous and full of absurd details - the grumpy doorman for the second clip in a row, the cyclists all dressed in white while playing horns, the CH members all dressed up, Neil suddenly diving underwater and meeting a sea horse before magically jumping up on stage again and grooving along to the music, Nick's clothes getting more and more extravagant and the one audience member unexpectedly blowing up. Wonderful!
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  15. I like "Playing With Fire" - it's catchy, moves all right. I'm going to rate it low for how catchy I think it is because I know that it's almost a sure thing that if I listen to it more I'll like it more than I do, so I'm going to give it room to grow for the next time someone does a Finn thread.

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  16. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle Prince of Swollen Sinus Thread Starter

    Our votes for "Playing With Fire"

    Average: 3.85
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  17. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle Prince of Swollen Sinus Thread Starter

    Today's song is "To The Island", written by Neil Finn and produced by Crowded House.

    Crowded House – To the Island Lyrics | Genius Lyrics

    This was released as a single in early 2021, and an alternate mix by Tame Impala was also released.

    Neil Finn: vocals, guitar
    Liam Finn: guitar, vocals
    Mitchell Froom: keyboards
    Nick Seymour: bass, vocals
    Elroy Finn: drums, vocals
  18. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle Prince of Swollen Sinus Thread Starter

    TAme IMpala remix:
  19. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle Prince of Swollen Sinus Thread Starter

    Unknown Mortal Orchestra remix:
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  20. brownie61

    brownie61 Forum Resident

    To the Island

    I think this is the worst of the three singles from the album, and possibly the worst song on the album. I just can’t seem to warm up to it. It plods along, and even when it gets to the more melodic chorus it still plods. Then there is the problem of Liam’s (?) voice when he sings the line “It’s too enormous.” It sounds like he has a stuffy nose and I just can’t stand the way it sounds. The odd keyboard solo towards the end stalls an already plodding song even more.

    It’s too bad because the lyrics to this one are very nice. But the song is almost unlistenable to me.

    The Tame Impala remix is a huge improvement. (Caveat: I am a big Tame Impala fan, so I’m used to what he does with the vocals.)

    1.5/5 (album version)
    3.25/5 (Tame Impala remix)
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  21. KangaMom

    KangaMom Queen of the Quokkas

    To The Island - I've liked this song almost from the first moment I heard it. It is just a pretty irresistible piece of pop with some nice harmonies. I do like the strange keyboard sounds just before the guitar outro. That's quite excellent. I know that the lyrics are somewhat about being locked down and isolated but I actually find the song itself to be pretty joyous.


    I'm not sure about the Tame Impala remix. It more or less removes nearly everything I like about the song originally. Maybe I need more than one listen on that version...

    I've not listened to the Unknown Mortal Orchestra version (heads up that link isn't working for us in the US).
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  22. KangaMom

    KangaMom Queen of the Quokkas

    I'd never watched the video for "To The Island" before. I like it a lot although I was extremely concerned for Neil being swamped in the canoe! I like how eventually everyone is at a party and dancing. Extremely cool.
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  23. This could almost be a euphemism for fleeing to New Zealand when everyplace else in the world is kind of a writeoff courtesy of the pandemic. Maybe it is...

    This is ok - I don't get annoyed by it the way I did by so much of Intriguer but I don't connect with it out the gate like I did, do with the earlier stuff. But it's not *bad*...

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  24. drewrclv9

    drewrclv9 Forum Resident

    Metro Detroit, MI
    I personally think this is the best single of the three, by a pretty wide margin as well. It's by no means the best song on the album or anything, but I still enjoy most of it. I really like the sneaky, side winding vibe in the verses with Neil's subdued, sinister vocals. The periodic vocal hook that plays at the beginning is great as well.

    The mysterious sounding verses couple very well with the more sunny, joyous chorus. Great guitar, great vocal harmonies (specifically in the middle 8 with the Beach Boys thing going on). I also really enjoy the outro section. I remember Neil playing that section on FangRadio, and that really got my interest piqued for the new album. I have to say, when Neil sings the background line "fell under the wheel", the joker in me immediately thought, "Oh Christ, now Phil Judd's gonna think Neil's singing about him again!" :p It's one of the funnier things to have read on frenzforum, regarding his thoughts on Neil's line in "Last to Know" ("how does it feel, beneath your own wheel").

    Anyway, nothing here is groundbreaking or incredible, but it's a nice track with some unique sounds and creative melodies.

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  25. DanP

    DanP Forum Resident

    Sydney, Australia
    Playing with Fire

    Off the back of the underwhelming first two singles, and seeing the video at the same time as hearing the song, I was left a little cold. However, in the context of the album, the song has grown on me to becoming a real favourite, and not just of the album. I feel the 'new' Crowded House dynamic really shines here.


    In terms of dynamic range, Oasis' engineer Owen Morris claims early 'credit' for brickwalling an album. As per the excellent explanations in posts above, he limited the songs on Definitely Maybe and What's the Story Morning Glory so that they jumped out of the pub jukebox, competing with the pub's ambient noise and sounding "louder" than other bands' records. This caught on: back in the day when record company reps would travel around to radio stations with a wallet of new singles to promote, radio programmers ears would tend to prick up when a song jumped out of the speakers; accordingly, no mastering engineers then wanted to compromise radio picking up on the song if its sound was more naturalistic and 'soft' when compared with brickwalled bangers. A perhaps apocryphal take of the Dawn of the Loudness Wars. :)

    I haven't noticed a squashed range on Dreamers are Waiting, and I've been listening on vinyl with a nice (but by no means audiophile) set up. I think I've commented in previous posts, though, that for years Neil has favoured really dry drums, and pretty low in the mix. (Intriguer was the worst for this and one of the reasons I don't return to it much.) I don't know if they are limited or compressed at the mixing stage, or just recorded with little to no reverb or ambience. The recent studio pics show Elroy with towels on them.

    It's become a little more palatable a style on the new record, but I still wish he'd yank the towels off and slap some naturalistic room reverb on. I think this is why some of the new stuff sounds what some of us are calling 'claustrophobic'.

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