Live albums are often difficult to get right. Some bands record them on the night, which puts extra pressure on them to be as flawless as it’s possible to be in a live setting. Some would argue that live performances are all about the smaller things, like the energy and improvisation that can come from a band completely in the moment. Recording one whole gig for a live album release acts more as a document of that particular performance – it’s much easier to record multiple gigs and cherry-pick the highlights. This is the approach taken by Fink for their first live album, Wheels Turn Beneath My Feet, and this means that the focus is on individual performance rather than flow.
As a band, Fink have been active for six years – frontman Fin Greenall’s brief solo stint has been swept under the rug and as such no songs from his solo album Fresh Produce appear here. All the same, the album collects some rather diverse material, and even if most of it can be collected under the umbrella term of ‘indie-folk’, the approach taken to song selection is such that the collection constantly plays to the band’s strengths.
These performances were recorded last year during the tour for the band’s most recent studio recording Perfect Darkness and so a sizeable chunk of this record focuses on it. What becomes apparent whilst listening to that album’s title track here is how well it translates live, and the same can be said for its counterparts; the confident folk-pop of Yesterday Was Hard on All of Us in particular is an early album highlight. The fact that Greenall and co. have not enjoyed success in their homeland is frequently shown up as completely absurd. In a different world, an album that contains material as impressive as Honestly – which floats by on a hard-hitting melody, ebbing and flowing gracefully – would have surely seen them break through to the public at large last year. They have however enjoyed success in the Netherlands, and the loyal European fanbase that they have built up is rewarded handsomely with some forays into their back catalogue. The album is bookended by songs from 2006′s full-band debut, Biscuits for Breakfast – namely the title track and Pretty Little Thing – which are both received quite warmly.
There is an undeniable focus on the more mid-tempo material from the band’s discography, but the album’s standout track is Blueberry Pancakes, the sole up-tempo representative. Like much of the rest of Wheels Turn Beneath My Feet, it’s given a new lease on life when performed live, and its shimmering guitar lines and infectious melody are brilliantly realised.
There are moments, such as on a particularly epic, nine-minute-long Sort Of Revolution, when the focus shifts to Greenall’s accomplished guitar playing, and they are needed just as much as the songs on which the spotlight shines on the band’s remarkably tight live sound. There is a nice mixture of styles throughout this album, which helps to highlight Fink’s prowess as a live act. Their studio recordings are impressive enough but the live incarnation of Fink is something to behold. They’ve been flying under the radar in their home country for quite a while now, and on the evidence of this thrilling album, which is so much more than a simple document of their most recent tour, it’s high time that they broke cover.