Review Thread - The Conversation


1. Straw to Gold
2. Out of this world
3. The Saw & the Tree
4. Slow Mystery
5. Rearview Mirror
6. Only a Dream
7. Fall from Grace
8. Invisible
9. Snowbound
10. Great Return
11. Imaginary Kingdom
12. Forever Thursday
13. More Fool Me

I know it doesn't officially come out until next week but since it's available on Tim's MySpace it's not too soon for us to start having opinions!

Personally, I'll admit I was at first worried. The YouTube documentary had some clips of songs but nothing jumped out at me and I was concerned that the album might be flat and boring. I'm pleased to report that I was wrong. I think the album comes off just as Tim intended. It's warm and intimate and features some of his best song writing to date. This may not be a popular thought but I think this album easily surpasses Imaginary Kingdom and stands alongside Feeding the Gods as one of Tim's best.

I think it actually acts as a very nice counterpoint to Feeding the Gods. Both albums are very emotional, personal, and well executed. The difference is of course that while FtG is loud and aggressive The Conversation is quiet and soothing. But on both albums the strong melodies, lyrics, and lack of mediocre song craft (see "Show Yourself") combined with straightforward production makes them sound simultaneously fresh and timeless.

Bravo, Tim!

I think the best songs are "Straw to Gold", "Out of this World", "Fall From Grace", "Forever Thursday", and "Great Return".

Possibly weak tracks (though I need more time to digest them) may be: "Rearview Mirror" and "Imaginary Kingdom".

I haven't heard "Invisible" yet so this review is 8% incomplete.
Original Post
Just got it today - so on first listenings....

More Fool Me, Invisible and Out of This World are great. I love the laid back feel of this album and Tim's voice is really sounding great.

Fall From Grace and Straw to Gold are currently really growing on me too!!

I'm really impressed with this album. I love that he's put it on his myspace. Onya Timmy!
Tim sounds like he is at his best and happiest.
Well done.
I've been listening to the stream on Tim's myspace site.

My first reaction is *relief*. I hated Imaginary Kingdom. I thought the arrangements were overwraught, and that Tim struggled, vocally, to compete with the overwraught arrangements. IK almost made me swear off Tim. For sure it made me swear off buying anything from him without hearing it first.

The Conversation is a joy. Simple, quiet arrangements that let the beauty of the songs shine through. And Tim's voice sounds great, without having to compete with all the instrumentation. He's not struggling to reach notes he can no longer reach.

I haven't listened to it enough yet to be able to comment on individual songs, but for sure my overall initial reaction is that this is a beautiful album. Sonically pleasing to me in every way.
Underwhelmed. Straw to Gold is the only song that grabbed me on the first listen and that was because the first melodic line is Eight Miles High by the Byrds. I found this album very much in the comfort zone and consequently was bored by it.
I also thought of "Eight Miles High" when I first heard "Straw to Gold".

I still think the album is a fine piece of work and much better than Imaginary Kingdom. I think these songs and arrangements are perfectly suited to Tim's voice. The album reminds me of Bic Runga's album Birds which was also done with mostly live takes and acoustic instrumentation.

I also need to take back what I said about "Rearview Mirror" in my first post. I actually think it's one of the best songs on the album now.
First thought listening to this was "Where the heck did this come from?". It's the anti-Imaginary Kingdom.

I think what I like about this album is that it has dignity Smiler

"More Fool Me", I'd heard on Rare 4 last year, and the subject matter of that song was pretty obvious.

"Fall From Grace" is a raw raw song. It's very bare and honest. It's sad. One of the best things I've heard Tim do for a long time.
Iarla wrote:
quote:
I think what I like about this album is that it has dignity

Thank you Iarla Smiler You have just summed this up perfectly.

You don't necessarily have to like a thing, or be immediately grabbed by a thing, to still be able to recognise the depth and quality of that thing. Smiler

I have to admit I was feeling really shirty when I first heard the album on his Myspace page - I'm now thinking that my initial opinion was more a reflection of coming down with something, than how I really feel about the album.
I finally got to hear "Invisible" and it has only increased my opinion of the album. It's totally one of the standout tracks and it's a shame that it's not up on his MySpace for the world to hear.

Unlike Iarla, I had no idea what Tim was getting at with the Rare IV demo of "More Fool Me". I can hardly believe it's the same song as the one on The Conversation. It's grown up so nicely and has much better lyrics and melodies and the intent of the lyrics is much more obvious.
I had to phone around Perth to find a copy on Saturday.

I only found one store in the state that had a copy (Mills records in Fremantle).

After getting "that" copy i took a listen and at this stage i'm not 100% sold on every song BUT i am going to say that there are some of Tim's best songs on this Album.

The Saw & the Tree
More Fool Me

are FANTASTIC.

I hope to write a song like these one day...
I'm part way through my third listen through, and still in that ecstatic moment of recognizing an artist completely in his element. Camus called it a "comfort zone", but that's precisely why I love it. I haven't heard Tim in this place in years: the sad acceptance in "Fall From Grace", the simple joy of "Forever Thursday", the little signature melodic turns and bitter-sweet lines throughout which take it, in my opinion, way beyond just a minor folksy outing.

It might also help that Roxanne is here too listening with me. Smiler
I went to JB Hifi in Elizabeth Street at lunchtime yesterday and was disappointed not to find any copies of the Conversation.

I went and asked one of the guys who said they ordered stock, and it should have been there by Saturday, but no sign of it.

He then said that the Bourke Street store have 25 copies. Big Grin

I hot-footed it up there, and when I got there there were 3 copies on the stand. I grabbed one, and waited in an extremely long line to pay for it. I am assuming that they couldn't accommodate any more copies than that.

I won't get to listen until after Tim's show, but despite everything I've said, I'm really looking forward to hearing the albm proper for the first time. Big Grin
Pitt St JB HiFi didn't have any copies on Saturday but found one on Sunday at the TGV store. I only got home yesterday from my trip so haven't yet had a listen... my hubby goes away tonight so I plan to do some serious ear bashing for the next week Big Grin
This is the first album in a long time that I will put on and listen to in its entirety. I usually listen, decide which are my favourite songs, then head straight for them every time.

Not this time though. Big Grin

My first listen to this album really was just so misleading. I didn't like it, and couldn't get a feel for it.

I now love it. I don't know whether its because I've now heard the songs live, or whether I'm just in a better frame of mind (sure that's a large part of it Razzer) but it doesn't really matter.

I certainly have my favourite songs on the album, and my not so favourite, however I still feel the need to listen to it in its entirety.

It is kind of like a conversation; if you only take in bits and pieces of it, you miss the point. Smiler
After living with the album for over a week now I can say that I still love it. I think "Invisible" is turning out to be one of my favorite songs. It's really beautiful and classic sounding.

Songs I don't like quite as much as I did a week ago are "Imaginary Kingdom" and "Great Return".

"The Saw and the Tree", "Out of This World", and "Rearview" have all grown on me immensely and "Out of this World" is still great too.
SmilerI thought I would provide an early review of The Conversation. I admit to being a little disappointed with IK. There were some great tracks (STTS,CBD,WL)but a couple of clangers (Horizon - poor lyrics, Show Yourself). Tragically I think Unsinkable was masterful but left unfinished. The production was very conventional which was in stark contrast to the magnificent album that is Feeding the Gods and the transitional album Say It Is So.

With The Conversation the maverick is back and that is good news. Tim succeeds in a couple of his major aims here - the album is sonically interesting(the interplay between Brett's guitar and the violin a highlight)and there is a palpable conversation musically between the players. There is some truly beautiful musical passages - some of this is about arrangements, player skill and that mystery that is groove. Chamber pop is a good description, free of the artifice of tricky production (except for double tracking Tim's vocals a bit which works)however in this type of environment anything that is crappy will show up in a stark way.

Thus the real strength of this album, as Eddie notes in the documentary, is the sheer quality of the songs. On the first playing this album can sound like it is all the same (as Camus indicated)and underwhelming but further listenings find some gems, in fact many gems. It may be Tim's most consistent batch of songs.

I have liked to some extent nearly all things by the Brothers Finn but I am not without a critical vein. In recent times I found IK slightly disappointing as noted above, thought Time on Earth was very good but only occassionally exciting when it pursued new sounds (e.g. Transit Lounge, Your the One) and liked the songs on EIH but found the production inhibiting and untimately bad for the songs.

The Conversation is courageous but takes repeated listens to reveal itself.

Straw to Gold - yes the opening sequence is similar to Eight Miles High but this a really strong opening song with the lyrical theme about the redemption of love somehow undercut by the, at times, threatening music. Great ending with the violin and guitar solo.

Out of this World - another love song to Marie but much more straitforward than the above. Its a very pretty song and a strong vocal. No idea why it is the single - for me it is one of the less interesting songs.

The Saw & The Tree - Excellent. Great lyric and saw solo. Folky, dark with a beautiful chorus.

Slow Mystery - I loved this from the start! The languid rythmn, echoed hand drum and the vocal harmonies are masterful. Quite different to other tracks in style. My only inponderable is the middle eight. I think I like it but is it too understated vocally? (or is that the point!)

Rearview Mirror - Another I loved from the start
Great chorus and a lyric that manages to weave together notions of love, loss and music around the central metaphor of that which is past (as in rear vision). His lyrics are very complete on this album with some suprising twists.

Only A Dream - Hardest song for me to judge. It is lightweight compared to the rest of the album but I think this is both necesary and intentional, given the more heavy duty lyrics in front of and behind it.Playful rythmn and nice whistling

Fall From Grace - Raw, tough and revealing. Its a very good, perhaps even great song. The stripped back ensemble playing suits it. Have I commented on Eddies playing yet? He adds beautiful shadings to many of these track and this one is no exception.

Invisible - Took me a while to warm to this one. Great lyric and some tremendous instrumental work make this a highlight.

Snowbound - Took me even longer to warm to this one.Ha ha like that - warm to Snowbound!! Now it is possibly my favourite. Tim bursts right into this song and it is a bit unsettling at first. The chorus is great and it has the most magical middle eight that emerges from a beautiful musical passage. Brilliant.

Great Return - Very Irish ballad this one. Another love song to Marie I suspect. Took a while to grow on me but now I really like it.

Imaginary Kingdom - Loved this from the start. It is slightly different to other songs on the album in structure and the third person lyrical context. Really good vocals and middle eight.

Forever Thursday - A nice love song with the only drum kit on the album. A solid pop song and some nice relief after some of the heavier themes that precede it.

More Fool Me - Brilliant but painfully so. Perhaps after all the songs about Judd (Charlie, I Hope I Never, Dead Flowers etc) this one might drop the blinds. Excellent use of lyrics from 129 and fantastic ensemble playing. Whatever caused the breakdown in their relationship it appears pretty terminal in this song. There is anger and sorrow rendered in both words and music here.

So I really like The Conversation and I don't think I have really taken it all in yet. As my partner said the other night 'that music is beautiful' That may well be the secret of this album.
Great review Titus, and welcome. Big Grin

I very much enjoyed reading your review.

From what you read, and hear Tim say, they're possibly all love songs to Marie (except More Fool Me Wink) Big Grin

Kind of makes you hope that the love grows and deepens, then we get the benefit in beautiful music. Big Grin

An album like this provides the perfect backdrop to our lives really. Cool
Thanks Texas Rose. I think its really difficult to write celebratory songs about love and growth as there is a tendency for them to sound corny or one dimensional. I remember reading an interview with Michael Stipe and him discussing how difficult it was to write Shiny Happy People.

I think Tim has succeeded on this album in writing some great mature love songs that are complex sometimes (Straw to Gold) and quite simple at other times (Out of this World, Forever Thursday). He has in the past I think written some that are not successful - I don't really like Horizon because I think the lyric doesnt work.

Having said that one of Tim's strongest virtues is that he takes risks. This means he can and does fail at times but it also allows the possibility of writing songs in new and interesting ways. I think on The Conversation he has achieved the latter.
My biggest problem is that I feel Eddie is totally wasted on the album (meaning that it could have been any session keyboard player. There were very few Eddie touches). I thought the writing was going to be three ways between Finn Rayner and Golding, but that may only have been from when it was going to be Finn Judd and Golding and was disappointed to discover it's only written by Tim. The songs themselves, while I acknowledge that they are well written, don't grab me at all. I've found this with nearly all Finn releases lately though. I'm still willing to give it a chance though, which is why I bought The Coversation (and I'm not sorry I did).

I just feel the album took the easy path. It could have been so much more considering the musicians involved, and its this loss of opportunity that saddens me. I have listened to the album several times, but have come to the conclusion it doesn't do it for me. I'm glad everyone else is really getting into it though. Maybe my expectations were too high? I just wanted to hear something different from Tim, to hear him stretch himself like he did with Say It Is So and I don't feel he did with this album.

Surprised to find most people don't like Show Yourself from IK. It's one of my favourite songs from the album....

More Fool Me, well, I'm a bit sick of the whole Finn/Judd thing, and feel a bit of dignity is lost with that song. I just wouldn't have gone there myself, but each to their own.
You make some good points Camus (aside from liking "Show Yourself"). Some people claim they can really hear "the conversation" on this album between various players but personally I don't think Tim fully realized that idea. I think what we've got here is a Tim Finn album with some great musicians on it. But it's basically just acoustic TF songs with some violin solos.

I think Eddie's piano parts do a great job of flushing out the songs and supporting the vocal melodies but none of the songs really feature the piano. Certainly not in any way that shows off Eddie's talents. Eddie did co-produce the album though, so perhaps we can hear his influence on the overall production and arrangements in addition to his piano parts.

I hadn't thought about "More Fool Me" too much but I agree that perhaps the song does lose some dignity. I am also a bit tired of Tim's songs about Judd but I gave him a pass on this album because he worked with so many other Enz members. Perhaps I should reconsider that stance. I mean really, you'd think mature adults would have either settled their differences by now or let them go.

All that aside, however, I do love this album and think it's way better than IK and I too loved Say It Is So.
I agree with many of the points Camus makes, especially about the Judd/Finn thing. Two grown men need to either reconcile or get over it and your right it does lack dignity.

I think there is a conversation on this album and I must admit it exceeded my expectations. Its not only the strength of the songs but the quality of the musicians and their connection. I can understand that some people will be disappointed because this album is very organic and naked which is not everyone's cup of tea.

The Finns I think find themselves in a weird space as they age. They have a huge back catalogue of songs, most of which are highly admired/loved and which has built them a huge following/audience.

To meet the expectations of many they need to keep producing the 'crowded house sound' in Neils case and poppy but slightly off centre songs in Tims case. This I think leads to problems for both. Tim clearly made a desision to produce IK in a conventional way. Perhaps he thought it would lead to greater commercial success - I don;t know. For me, he is at his best when he goes alternative as he did with SIIS and especially FTG (and the original Split Enz). I think The Conversation is a return to that agenda. It is unlikely to win him any new fans.

With Time on Earth Neil I think attempted to reconnect with the original crowded house sound. Many people loved this but I found it lacked excitement. I think he can write songs like Pour Le Monde in his sleep. What I did like was Transit Lounge and Your the One because they were different. How can he win?

It is also worth remembering all the trouble they had with EIH. I think that sums up the whole problem - to be different or deliver close to expectations. With that album they chose the latter but with FINN a decade earlier they chose the former.

I don;t envy them their choices but they are both highly recognized and respected artists and both are wealthy. So for mine they would be better to take more risks. Their legacy is safe and already established - they can choose to add to it or imitate it in my view.
Camus wrote:
quote:
More Fool Me, well, I'm a bit sick of the whole Finn/Judd thing, and feel a bit of dignity is lost with that song. I just wouldn't have gone there myself, but each to their own.

I agree with this.

I'm not at all sure why Tim changed More Fool Me from what it was. I thought it was a lovely song. Its now one of my least favourites on the album.
More Fool Me is an amazingly honest song, some would say brutal and a fall out between friends, even very close friends is both common and traumatic. Perhaps it does lack dignity (and I accept Camus point here) but also it may demonstrate a kind of release for both Tim's anger and pain. I think art should be able to do this. Can you maintain your dignity? Well thats a much harder question.
quote:
Originally posted by titus:
I think its really difficult to write celebratory songs about love and growth as there is a tendency for them to sound corny or one dimensional. I remember reading an interview with Michael Stipe and him discussing how difficult it was to write Shiny Happy People.


I am quite liking The Conversation. However, I'm not a fan of Forever Thursday for than corny/cheesy thing you mention. I don't know why, but to me it just seems like a pretty light-weight love song. Loving the rest, though.
quote:
Originally posted by Texas Rose:
Camus wrote:
quote:
More Fool Me, well, I'm a bit sick of the whole Finn/Judd thing, and feel a bit of dignity is lost with that song. I just wouldn't have gone there myself, but each to their own.

I agree with this.

I'm not at all sure why Tim changed More Fool Me from what it was. I thought it was a lovely song. Its now one of my least favourites on the album.


I really like this song regardless of the content - I'm not one to care too much about the truths in songs. But I do agree that the whole Tim/Phil thing has worn really thin. Maybe it's time they took it out the back and beat the c**p out of each other. Wink

Of course, I'm kidding. Smiler
I think you need to give it time, perhaps more so than any other Finn recording. At first it can sound very samey but the tracks tend to reveal themselves on repeated plays. Initially I was not sure at all about Great Return but now it is a favourite. There are lots of little surprises in the grooves. After two weeks and maybe seven listens it is still growing on me. I think all the tracks are well written but if I had to nominate a less interesting track it would be Out of this World and perhaps Fall from Grace.

My favourites are Straw to Gold, Rearview Mirror, Snowbound, Imaginary Kingdom, Saw & the Tree, Slow Mystery, More Fool Me and Great Return.
Yeah, I'd agree with titus that it reveals more of itself with subsequent listens. Some of the songs will likely never grab me, but perhaps that's just my headspace right now. Much of it didn't initially grab me as much as IK did, though I'd have to agree that the production is better this time. Don't think it took me anywhere near as long as some of his earlier albums to appreciate though...
What's heartening to me is that, while maybe it's not grabbed me instantly, unlike IK & TOE, I can hear the potential of getting to know this album a lot better and letting it grow on me. Much stronger song-writing underpins it I think and I'm actually considering buying it! (Unlike the aforementioned other albums that almost instantly turned me off.)
Yeah I think it is a real grower. Each time I listen to it I find new things. For example the way Eddies piano really drives back in after the saw solo. Wonderful rythmic playing. Strangely I am beginning to think the ablum is often too much to hear in one go. It seems better to play about 5-6 songs at a time. This is certainly some of Tim's most complete writing-no songs like Horizon or Show Yourself that just sound crafted. I think the production is quite stunning sonically especially given the small number of instruments and there is plenty of space in the mix. They have also recorded his voice very well - quite a bit of double tracking but that doesn;t hurt. Miles Golding is very interesting - his lines are simple but beautifully rendered - a kind of classical counterpoint to the guitars - he often reintroduces the melody which seems to really work. Ethan Allen and Eddie have done a great job on production. My suspicion is that this album will be held in higher regard as time moves on.
I've only played the album through once, but I love it and am looking forward to more listens over the next week or so.

Again it's not a rock 'n' roll album but this doesn't detract from the enjoyment factor. It's much less poppy ("chamber pop" being the apt description here), with simple, uncluttered arrangements and production. The piano stands out.

Again, typically evocative song titles and straight-forward lyrics. However I think Tim's been taking a few leaves from his brother's book and thrown in a few esoteric numbers like 'The Saw And The Tree'.

It could be his most personal album since Tim Finn. I agree with some who say 'More Fool Me' is a bit too personal, but overall I think it's a good bunch of songs. Tim definitely is getting better with age. Make that three good albums in a row!

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