Sitting out in the sun while listening to The Finn Brothers is a good idea. Their uplifting harmonies float from the speakers as an ideal accompaniment to a lazy, hazy summer’s day. I can picture intimate barbecues in leafy suburbs playing their latest album mid-volume while the sausages slowly sizzle. It’s the perfect background music to a mellow Sunday: easy-listening but not too drab.
But there is the rub. The Kiwi brothers’ latest offering, Everyone Is Here, is their first collaborative studio album in eight long years. The return of the former Crowded House frontmen is supposed to be exciting, but sadly it’s not. I’m willing each song to be a cracker. I’m willing fresh material to burst out from the CD. But instead it’s music to sunbathe to. Music that untaxingly goes in one ear and out the other without too much brain-action needed.
That’s not to say that the songs aren’t okay. The harmonic melodies and acoustic guitars on Everyone Is Here are pleasant to the ear. The new material may not be as anthemic and infectious as the old Crowded House favourites such as Don’t Dream It’s Over, Private Universe and It’s Only Natural, but still it possesses the Finn Brothers’ stamp.
In fact, if someone had burned the opening track and recent single Won’t Give In on to my Crowded House Greatest Hits CD, I would not have noticed. It has a delicate melody with a regular dusty beat that will spark a 1000 lighters. It possesses the kind of watered-down Beatles melody that we recognise from previous Crowded House albums such as Woodface back in 1991.
This is all well and good if you don’t mind more of the same, but I find it pretty uninspirational. There is no development or progression in the song-making. It’s like the brothers are happily stuck in a rut and have written an album that is a safe bet with all the Crowded House fans. Even production-wise the songs sound unchanged. Most of the tracks have that Woodface feel to them, so I was not surprised to read that Everyone is Here is produced and mixed by the same people, Mitchell Froom and Bob Clearmountain.
One change that has happened is the lyrics. No longer always taking the weather with them, the brothers are palpably older and have become rather reflective in the process. Tracks such as the confessional Disembodied Voices are sepia-tinged as Neil Finn sings: “Talking with my brother when the lights went out, down the hallway 40 years ago”. Edible Flowers is a mid-life crisis waiting to happen. Starting off with melancholy violins and a gently discordant piano, Tim Finn despondently sings: “Everybody wants the same thing, to see another birthday.” He then goes on to declare: “Taste the edible flowers scattered in the salad days”. Blimey, if you can relate to this then you probably listen to BBC Radio 2.
A surprise track is All God’s Children, a rocky song with feel-good chord progressions and electric guitars that bring home some much-needed pizzazz. It seems there’s life in the old album yet. However, the rest of the tracks, from the easy-listening Nothing Wrong With You to the more animated Anything Can Happen are nice but pretty repetitive and when you have to listen closely they are, dare I say it, boring.
So there you have it. Melodic and inoffensive, Everyone Is Here is great for background music. It’s even pleasant enough for your parents’ soiree or as a gift for your dad. But cutting edge music this isn’t. The album sounds similar to previous Crowded House material but without that vital youthful vigour that made those songs so special.