(Lester / Redeye)
What could possibly temper enthusiasm for a debut record
full of pleasurable pop tunes with strong hooks, rhythmic exuberance, and
occasional nods in the melodic direction of the great Neil Finn, best known for
his work in Crowded House? Take into account this is the actual Neil Finn,
writing songs completely ass backwards, and coming up with an album that
compares quite poorly with the exquisite material he’s shared with us over the
last 34 years since he joined his brother Tim in Split Enz.
Finn and his wife Sharon created a series of bass and drum
grooves while hanging out at home, drinking wine, and generally having a good
time. Sharon is
a rhythmically adept bassist, and Neil is a drummer who can hold down a steady
beat, but doesn’t seem quite ready to do anything else. Enjoying themselves,
Neil and Sharon took the challenge of working these rhythm tracks into songs.
Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with writing songs from the beats up, but
for a melodic talent as imaginative as that of Neil Finn, it does put rather
severe limitations on where the tunes can go.
Joined by fellow New Zealand musician Sean Donnelly (also
known as SJD), the Finn spouses mixed these limited but enjoyable songs into
thick constructions of synthesizer, guitar, electric piano, and vocal bits
ranging from random noises to neatly devised hooks. The result is something
that goes down nice and easy, that gets the feet to bouncing and the mouth to
singing along on the catchy parts, but which never invites close attention. Coming
as it does after last year’s magnificent Crowded House album Intriguer, the debut from Pajama Club
seems even slighter than it might have otherwise.
There are worse ways to pass 45 minutes than to listen to
music so amiable as this, but Neil Finn has done – and one hopes will again do
– much better.
“These Are Conditions,” “Tell Me What You Want.” STEVE PICK
Go here to read a live
review of Finn and his Pajama Club live in Bethlehem, PA,
in June, along with exclusive photos.