Skip to main content

Things have been a bit slow on the boards recently, to the point where I am almost (but only almost) missing the action from the now-locked Voldemort Thread initiated by jmacj.

Amidst that thread's blizzard of sillinesses and nastinesses, there were some intermittently promising discussions, especially about what works and what doesn't work on Time on Earth -- which (as we all know by now) started out as Neil's third solo record but morphed into Crowded House's fifth studio album. I tried to resuscitate this discussion in the thread about what the other band members contribute to Neil's songs, but I realized the way I framed the topic was too, um, "obscure."

My question is NOT about which songs you prefer on Time on Earth -- the Johns "solo" tracks or the Lillywhite "band" tracks -- but about how they are different in terms of their performance vibes. How does Neil "solo" sound different on the record from Neil with "band," even though Neil and Nick play in both line-ups?

I actually prefer the "solo" songs as *songs*. But I prefer the Lillywhite-produced numbers as *performances*, even though (with the exception of Don't Stop Now) I don't particularly like them as songs. I wonder if others here have had a similar response. And, if so, what is it for you that makes the performance of these songs so different (or not) from the "solo" tracks?
Original Post

Replies sorted oldest to newest

I've always found it very hard to see past this as a solo album with four band songs in it. If you take the band tracks out it becomes a very sombre, mellow, reflective record which sonically sounds exactly like I expected the follow up to One Nil to sound: like a singer-songwriter record.

The band tracks, on the other hand, have greater energy. It's hard to pin point but the solo tracks sound like a bunch of people sitting in a room trying to get a track down; the band songs sound like a bunch of people playing together. Make any sense?

Much as I appreciate the reasons behind TOE being marketed as a CH album I think it was the worst thing Neil could have done FOR THE RECORD ITSELF because it increased expectations wildly and brought about comparisons with a band that was ten years younger the last time it made a record together.

I find I like TOE more as time goes on.
I certainly agree that the band tracks have much more energy and punch; part of that is production, and much of it is just the effect of having guys playing together, guys who have played together before (with the exception of Matt, of course) and were probably thrilled to be back together. I find the "solo" tracks a bit too restrained, both in terms of production and performance, though that may be more about the playing styles of those involved (other than Neil and Nick) than about guys focused on "trying to get a track down". In any case, while I don't think releasing ToE as a CH album was a misstep, I do think a lot about what it could have been if Mark and Matt had been there from the start. Just hearing the tunes live tells me it would have been a much better record with the whole band in tow.
Nobody Wants To (produced by Ethan Johns): Neil, Nick, Ethan Johns (drums, harmony vocal)

Don't Stop Now (Produced by Steve Lillywhite): Neil, Nick, Mark, Matt, Johnny Marr (guitar)

She Called Up (SL): Neil, Nick, Mark, Matt

Say That Again (EJ): Neil, Nick, Rikki Gooch (drums), Elroy Finn (acoustic)

Pour Le Monde (EJ): Neil, Nick, Rikki Gooch (drums), Elroy Finn (acoustic), Ethan Johns (harmony vocal)

Even A Child (SL): Neil, Nick, Mark, Matt, Johnny Marr (guitar)

Heaven That I'm Making (EJ): Neil, Nick, Ethan Johns (drums, sitar), Elroy Finn (acoustic), Liam Finn (harmony vocal)

A Sigh (EJ): Neil, Nick, Don McGlashan (harmony vocal)

Silent House (EJ): Neil, Nick, Ethan Johns (drums, guitar, hurdy gurdy), Elroy Finn (acoustic), Liam Finn (harmony vocal)

English Trees (EJ): Neil, Nick, Ethan Johns (drums), Eddie Rayner (harmonium), Don McGlashan (euphonium), Sharon Finn (harmony vocal), Liam Finn (harmony vocal)

Walked Her Way Down (EJ): Neil, Nick, Ethan Johns (drums, guitar), Rikki Gooch (drums), Elroy Finn (guitar)

Transit Lounge (SL): Neil, Nick, Mark, Matt, Beth Rowley ("ethereal" vocal)

You Are The One To Make Me Cry (EJ): Neil, Nick, Ethan Johns (drums), Rikki Gooch (percussion)

People Are Like Suns (EJ): Neil, Nick, Joey Waronker (drums)

I don't have player credits for Stare Me Out or Lost Island, but I assume they are Neil/Nick/Ethan Johns.

Have at it, Mister Sadly!
What is interesting is that, Don't Stop Now excepted, the remaining tracks recorded as 'a band', were probably the three songs off the album least played on the recent tours. Every version of Transit Lounge I've heard is a lumbering disaster - probably the version from the Bath webcast being the best.
My favourite songs are mainly those recorded before the reformation and these have worked particularly well live - Walked Her Way Down, Silent House, Pour Le Monde. Hmmmm - perhaps the band should re-record the album with Steve Lillywhite?!
I think it's clear that Neil doesn't feel the need to take himself so seriously when he's with the band. "She Called Up" and "Transit Lounge" stand out because they're a bit goofy and unexpected in a lighthearted and fun way (as apposed to a crazy "Elastic Heart" way). They fall in line with some of the band's earlier works like "That's What I Call Love," "Chocolate Cake," and even "Pineapple Head".

For whatever reason, when Neil is with Crowded House he seems more likely to just have fun rather than trying to prove himself as a songwriter every time. I think the element of fun was sorely missing from his two solo albums and really look forward to hearing more of it on the next CH album.
good thread buddy - although i don't think there is anything wrong with your other one.

ist of all , i think neil and nick play on every track - thats two thirds of the origional line-up anyway.thats more than played on weather with you and now we're getting somewhere
to name to big crowdie tracks.....
.....anyway ,i really love the album,but i have always thought that 'don't stop now ' aside,the lillywhite tracks sound unfinished compared to the ethan johns stuff.there just seems to be more texture to songs like nobody wants to ,silent house and a sigh.contrary to what seems like public opinion! i really like 'she called up'.i think it's a great pop song - it's just the arrangement that for me lacks imagination.it almost sounds like a live run through.
quote:
Originally posted by Watney Sideburns:
Have at it, Mister Sadly!

Thanks, Watney S!

Wow. To me, "Nobody Wants To" is just such a pure perfect CH song.

I want to say that songs like "Silent House," "People Are Like Suns," "Pour Le Monde" and "Walked Her Way Down" are examples of songs that CRY OUT for the full Crowded House treatment - as witnessed by the surpassing excellence of these songs live compared to the perhaps less gripping album takes.

But then, "Don't Stop Now" is in the same class - WAY better live - and it had the full band on it on the album! So is it just live vs. studio? Is it the band "growing into" the songs - regardless of whether they were originally Neil-Nick-Etc or All-Four-Core? Is it just that the full band hadn't yet had a chance to gel again in its new configuration? Or a combination of factors perhaps?

Far as I'm concerned, most of the standout songs on this album are classic songs in the Crowded House mode - and that's how those songs flourish best. Yet a few of the more left-field "Neil solo"-leaning tracks also responded well as Crowded House songs, once the band sunk its teeth into them properly. "She Walked Her Way Down" in particular was Neil-solo all the way to my ears - but CH crushed it. Knocked it out of the park! So what's it all mean?

I think that Neil previously (pre-CH mark 1 breakup) held back some of his more experimental impulses because he felt they didn't fit the band vibe. Yet I also think that CH is fundamentally where Neil feels most "at home." The results of the band's takes on any and all of this material show that Crowded House might be a more versatile band than we all gave them credit for. I think Crowded House can be both: the trusty foundation for Neil's signature classic pop songcraft, but also a talented, versatile springboard for his more esoteric explorations.
Hello all---

I listened to TOE the other day for the first time in months. It was much as I remembered it---certainly not a bad album, but not a great one, either. Not a single song really, truly stays with me, which is the measuring stick for any timeless Crowded House song. Or, rather, any timeless song, period.

I agree that the band tracks generally have more energy and are more fun, and I absolutely agree with those who say that Neil appears to relax and not take himself too seriously when he's with the band.

I'm not sure where I got the idea, but back before the album was released and we were able to read the credits, I thought that Mark Hart played on the entire record. In other words, when the reunion was announced, I had the mistaken idea that Neil and Nick let Mark overdub some parts onto the existing solo tunes, and then Matt AND Mark joined in for the new Lillywhite tunes.

I managed to hear a pre-release version of TOE, so, armed with this erroneous information, I was perhaps a little more confused than I am now regarding which songs were true band songs and which weren't. As has been noted, the production on the newer tunes is pretty obvious.

But some of the solo tunes cross over into CH territory. I agree with Mr. Sadly, for instance. "Nobody Wants To" is perhaps the most "Crowded House"-sounding tune on the record, and it's not really the band at all, just part of it.

The first time I played him the album, a friend of mine immediately noted that "She Called Up" has a very similar hook to "Something So Strong." ["She called UP!" "Something So STRONG!" The melody and emphasis is very similar.]

Anyway, as songs, I think a few of the solo tunes are written like CH songs, but they weren't necessarily recorded that way. I think "Walked Her Way Down" and "People Are Like Suns" could have been great CH tunes in the band's hands.

mattl
A litmus test for me is how memorable Nick's bass lines on Time on Earth are. Which ones can you hum?

With the exception of Nobody Wants To, I can't really remember any of his bass lines from the Ethan Johns "solo" sessions. By contrast, the lines from the four Steve Lillywhite "band" sessions are unforgettable: the unexpected rising notes of Don't Stop Now (in tension with the guitar's descending notes), the boisterous soulful workout of She Called Up (yes, very reminiscent of Something So Strong), the sensitive interplay with the guitar arpeggios in Even A Child, the dreamlike jazz runs of Transit Lounge.

This suggests to me that in the Johns sessions, Nick was just trying to play along inobtrusively with Neil's guide guitar and piano tracks. And in the Lillywhite sessions, he was given -- or he gave himself -- more latitude to contribute to the sonic textures of the recording.

As I said, the exception for me from the Johns sessions is Nobody Wants To, where Nick's bass notes roll out plangently like steady waves on an ocean. Who knows what the thought process was behind turning Neil's "solo" album into Crowded House's reunion record. But I can't help thinking that, while recording this song, Neil may have felt: this sounds like Crowded House to me. And if he did, it was because Nick was doing more than just playing along -- his bass line, subtly yet beautifully, altered the feel of the song. The band was back.
It certainly sounds like Mark, no? But the credits for Mark's contributions in my Time on Earth CD booklet say only this:

MARK HART - piano, keyboards, electric guitar and harmonies on tracks 2, 3, 6, and 12.

That would be Don't Stop Now, She Called Up, Even A Child, and Transit Lounge.

Of course, they could have forgotten to credit him for any overdub work he did. But the info in the CD booklet is otherwise so capacious -- heck, they even credit Rikki Gooch for his "marching bass drum and cymbal" in You're The One To Make Me Cry (unforgettable contribution, that!) -- that it would be surprising if they omitted mention of any distinctive work Mark had done, especially given the significance of the reunion. So could that slide part in Nobody Wants To just be Neil trying to sound like Mark? Stranger things have happened.
quote:
Originally posted by Watney Sideburns:
So could that slide part in Nobody Wants To just be Neil trying to sound like Mark? Stranger things have happened.

Dang it I was just going to say that!

I mean, halfway through reading your post, I was going to say that.

I just can't wait for this NEW ALBUM to come out. Wonder what the status is!
quote:
Originally posted by Romer:
Mr. S,

I believe that mid-year 2009 is now being thrown about for the release date of the new CH album based upon a recent article I'd read.

Can anyone help out? I'm thinking that it was one discussing the next "7 Worlds Collide" project, but can't recall.

Thanks Romer! I think I remember hearing mid '09 as well, but I was just wondering where they were at with the process. Is it just "on hold" or are they actively working on it?

There needs to be some kind of little GPS dealy: "The Band Are Now..."

Nah, I'm kidding, that's downright stalkerish.
Hello all---

quote:
Originally posted by Watney Sideburns:
So could that slide part in Nobody Wants To just be Neil trying to sound like Mark? Stranger things have happened.


If it’s not Mark, it’s Neil trying to BE Mark. And a very good mimic, if I do say so myself.

quote:
Originally posted by Watney Sideburns:
A litmus test for me is how memorable Nick's bass lines on Time on Earth are. Which ones can you hum?


So, really, Nick is the determining factor. I can dig that. I think this is a great theory. I always thought Nick’s role and impact on the band was underestimated. And I don’t think it’s giving him too much credit to say that his playing literally can turn a “Neil Finn” song into a “Crowded House” one.

quote:
Originally posted by Mr. Sadly:
I just can't wait for this NEW ALBUM to come out. Wonder what the status is!


With respect to the new album, I hope Neil allows the other guys to put their handprints on the tunes, and I hope the guys are determined enough to inject their respective personalities into the music. Neil can be a great songwriter, but I think it was Nick, back around the Farewell concert, who said that Neil would have a hard time finding musicians more sympathetic to his music than Crowded House. I always thought that was a very observant statement by Nick, who recognized the magic and chemistry of the band more than Neil at the time, it seems.

Having heard some of the clips of the newer tunes on YouTube and elsewhere, I worry about what the new album will bring. Of the 9 or so songs I’ve heard, hardly any of them really stuck with me. Some of them have potential, though. “Twice If You’re Lucky” is a CH hit if I’ve ever heard one, but it needs to be a bit faster. “Other Side of the World” could thrive if it’s recorded well and sits at the right spot in the track listing on the album. “Only Way to Go Is Forward” sounds too much like “Don’t Stop Now” to my ears; it needs a different approach. “Isolation” could become a CH classic, but it has to grow into that role. [Personally, I preferred the earlier perspective of “she’s the kind of girl” rather than the newer “I’m the kind of man” one.]

I really, REALLY hope they pull in a strong-willed, creative producer [whose name is NOT Froom or Blake] who will kick the boys in the can and get them working to refine the songs. Lillywhite has my vote.

As cool as the SEVEN WORLDS 2 project sounds, I would rather get a new CH album. But, if Neil gets through that project and feels inspired to bring some new ideas to the CH record, then I guess that's a good thing. Maybe Jeff Tweedy will share a little inspiration with Neil...

mattl
quote:
Who knows what the thought process was behind turning Neil's "solo" album into Crowded House's reunion record. But I can't help thinking that, while recording this song, Neil may have felt: this sounds like Crowded House to me. And if he did, it was because Nick was doing more than just playing along -- his bass line, subtly yet beautifully, altered the feel of the song. The band was back.


That makes so much sense, WS.
quote:
Originally posted by Paināporo:
I think it's clear that Neil doesn't feel the need to take himself so seriously when he's with the band. "She Called Up" and "Transit Lounge" stand out because they're a bit goofy and unexpected in a lighthearted and fun way (as apposed to a crazy "Elastic Heart" way). They fall in line with some of the band's earlier works like "That's What I Call Love," "Chocolate Cake," and even "Pineapple Head".

For whatever reason, when Neil is with Crowded House he seems more likely to just have fun rather than trying to prove himself as a songwriter every time. I think the element of fun was sorely missing from his two solo albums and really look forward to hearing more of it on the next CH album.


You're right! How is it that I never thought of that before!? I always knew he was more esoteric on his own - but I had never thought about the fun factor. Perhaps that's really where Nil Fun has its origins! Smiler
To me, there are certain songs that sound like Crowded House and certain songs that sound like Neil Finn, but it's not just the ones that really are Crowded House and really are Neil Finn. I think the primary difference between a Crowded House song and a Neil Finn song--and this is a generalization, not an absolute--is that Crowded House songs are generally tighter and more structured, which I think is generally to their benefit.

With regard to what feels like Crowded House versus Neil Finn on Time On Earth . . .

Nobody Wants To -- Crowded House
Don't Stop Now -- Crowded House
She Called Up -- Crowded House
Say That Again -- Crowded House
Pour Le Monde -- Neil Finn
Even A Child -- Crowded House
Heaven That I'm Making -- Neil Finn
A Sigh -- Neil Finn
Silent House -- Neil Finn
English Trees -- Crowded House
Walked Her Way Down -- Crowded House
Transit Lounge -- Neither
You Are the One to Make Me Cry -- Neil Finn
People Are Like Suns -- Neil Finn

-Comp
quote:
Originally posted by Comp:
To me, there are certain songs that sound like Crowded House and certain songs that sound like Neil Finn, but it's not just the ones that really are Crowded House and really are Neil Finn. I think the primary difference between a Crowded House song and a Neil Finn song--and this is a generalization, not an absolute--is that Crowded House songs are generally tighter and more structured, which I think is generally to their benefit.

Hi Comp --
I really like what you say, not least because it unsettles the too-easy distinction between the "solo" recordings and the "band" recordings. As you say, some of the "solo" songs (Nobody Wants To in particular, I think) sound like Crowded House. And some of the "band" songs (hello "Transit Lounge"!) don't.

I'd still want to insist on the distinction I've made before between a "song" understood as a reproducible entity (involving lyrics, tune, chord structure) and a "song" understood as a collaborative performance (involving musical chemistry between performers).

If one abides by the first understanding of "song," many if not all of the tracks on Time on Earth are "Crowded House" songs because they contain (which is what I think Comp is getting at) recognizable elements of other Crowded House song structures and sounds. So a song like English Trees may have been recorded as part of the Neil Finn solo album sessions, but the case can be made (as Comp has) that it is a "Crowded House" song: like some of the band's signature tunes, it starts with a strummed acoustic guitar (see Better Be Home Soon), employs multilayered vocal harmonies (see Sister Madly), and incorporates a few Celtic melodic flourishes (see Time Immemorial).

For me, however, the second understanding of "song" (as a collective performance) shapes my sense of what are the "Crowded House" tracks and what are the "Neil Finn" numbers on Time on Earth. The "Crowded House" songs involve band members listening to each other as they play together, adding sometimes unexpected textures to a song. (Nick's counterintuitive bassline, Matt's astonishingly full drum sound, and Mark's stark piano notes in Don't Stop Now all seem cases in point.) By contrast, the "Neil Finn" songs tend to have less startling contributions from its sidemen, who are by and large content just to accompany rather than become part of the song.

From this point of view, English Trees doesn't sound to me much like a Crowded House song. Don't get me wrong: I love virtually everything about English Trees -- I think its lyrics are achingly beautiful, its tune is haunting, and there are some nice chord changes (e.g. the unexpected shift that accompanies the lines "Nothing sadder I know/ Than the passing of time"). But as a performance, there's not much band chemistry. Ethan Johns's drumming is pretty metronomic, little more than simple tapping to keep the beat (he hardly uses the full kit the way Matt does); Nick's bass line simply keeps up with the chord changes. Don McGlashan's euphonium and the Irish tin-whistle-like keyboard at the end are pretty touches, but they sound more like overdubs than integral parts of the performance. From the Ethan Johns sessions, it's only on Nobody Wants To that I think Nick plays like a collaborator rather than a sideman.

Interesting, though, that you include Say That Again on the list of songs sounding like Crowded House. By either definition, this doesn't strike me as a Crowded House song (indeed, its rhythm and its guitar chords sound to me more like Split Enz's Charlie). What makes it so for you?
Hello all---

quote:
Originally posted by Watney Sideburns:
Interesting, though, that you include Say That Again on the list of songs sounding like Crowded House. By either definition, this doesn't strike me as a Crowded House song (indeed, its rhythm and its guitar chords sound to me more like Split Enz's Charlie).


I totally agree. I've seen comments from many fans who claim "Say That Again" as a Crowded House tune, yet, to my ears, it sounds nothing of the sort. The verses are just plain boring; there's no hook to the song at all. The chorus section sounds forced. I can see the "Charlie" connection, but the Enz classic is light years beyond "Say That Again" in terms of melody and lyrical content.

Regarding "Transit Lounge," I have to say that the tune is a strange bird. Certainly, it sounds neither like the band nor like Neil solo. And that's probably what makes it moderately listenable for me. I don't expect the band to keep walking a circle, and I enjoy it when they throw in some new sounds and grooves.

...And the verse to "Transit Lounge" is certainly groovy! However, I think the tune loses its energy on the chorus, which approaches silliness with the backing vocal parts and lyrics. I'd have liked to have seen the groovy verses joined to a more Crowded House-type chorus, but that's just me.

mattl
quote:
But as a performance, there's not much band chemistry. Ethan Johns's drumming is pretty metronomic, little more than simple tapping to keep the beat (he hardly uses the full kit the way Matt does); Nick's bass line simply keeps up with the chord changes. Don McGlashan's euphonium and the Irish tin-whistle-like keyboard at the end are pretty touches, but they sound more like overdubs than integral parts of the performance. From the Ethan Johns sessions, it's only on Nobody Wants To that I think Nick plays like a collaborator rather than a sideman.
Very intriguing thoughts here, Mr. Sideburns. I agree completely about Johns' drumming; it's solid enough, but not very dynamic or energetic (he sounds content to hold down the beat and not much else). The part of your treatise that fascinates me most is the idea that Nick's bass playing was, for most of the Neil solo sessions, understated and inobtrusive - and then, particularly on the band tunes, he goes back to being the idiosyncratic Nick Seymour we know and adore. This makes perfect sense - as support for Neil, he plays one way, and, as a member of the band, his level of commitment and personal investment goes up. (I'd also guess that the likely melancholy of those earlier sessions might have contributed to the more somber approach to the songs, and to Nick's less exuberant playing.) The emotions of being in a room with a full band bashing away are also plenty inspiring, so I'm sure that was a factor as well.

Finally, I also agree that, of the Neil solo stuff, "Nobody Wants To" is the one that sounds most like CH - like a TA outtake. If I'd heard that, not knowing anything about which songs were which, I would have suspected that was a band track.
It is interesting to note what is Neil solo and what is Crowded House, as in collaborative. I thinks songs like Dont Stop Now and She Called Up have a clear sense of having been written for Crowded House - others like Transit Lounge, Your the One, English Trees etc sound like they were written for a solo album and recorded that way. I agree Nobody Wants To sounds like an outake from TA, ableit a very good one.

I found Time on Earth to be a very good album but the most interesting songs for me were those like Transit Lounge and Your the One (specifically the vocal on this one) that took the band into new areas. As I said on another post I believe Neil can write songs like Pour Le Monde in his sleep - what excites me are ventures into new areas. He can learn from Tim here. In taking risks you accept that failure can occur but Neil has such a huge legacy of great songs that he can choose to add new things to it or imitate it. I hope he chooses the former.
quote:
Originally posted by Watney Sideburns:
Interesting, though, that you include Say That Again on the list of songs sounding like Crowded House. By either definition, this doesn't strike me as a Crowded House song (indeed, its rhythm and its guitar chords sound to me more like Split Enz's Charlie). What makes it so for you?


To me, it sounds like the natural progression from the Crowded House of Together Alone, and after, with "Help Is Coming." Same complete band approach, but with a very intriguing and offbeat song structure and arrangement.

-Comp
I've found the last several posts to be some of the most well written and thoughtful posts this forum has had the pleasure to host. Thank you all.

I find the notion of what is or isn't a Neil Finn solo "song" (using BOTH of the above definitions) interesting. I too, feel intuitively as if I know what a "Neil" song is and what a "CH" song is. But then I think of the following:

1. Instinct and Not The Girl ALWAYS sounded to me like they were Neil solo songs. (It was a minor revelation to recently notice that the downright dull drumming on the former was underpinned by the same annoying percussion track that underpinned (and held back) Wherever You Are.)

2. Transit Lounge DOES sound to me like a "Neil" song for the simple reason that Elastic Heart exists. Neil can, and does, "experiment with the form".

3. Say That Again sounds entirely like a solo song. CH never produced anything so bland and unmelodic.

4. You're The One is SO a Neil solo song - but see point 1. It's the sister to Not The Girl.

All in all, while I feel I have an innate sense of what is solo Neil versus what is group, I find it impossible to identify a definitive boundary because there have been several overlaps. It's a shame I never got the chance to hear TOE without first knowing which songs had been recorded by the newly reformed band. I wonder if I'd have worked it out...
quote:
Originally posted by Paul H:
I've always found it very hard to see past this as a solo album with four band songs in it. If you take the band tracks out it becomes a very sombre, mellow, reflective record which sonically sounds exactly like I expected the follow up to One Nil to sound: like a singer-songwriter record.


How's it going Paul H?

Well, you make at least two assumptions here which I would argue are questionable:

1. Neil Finn solo is, en masse, sombre, mellow and reflective compared to CH.

Reflective, maybe... but I don't see how you could substantiate sombre or mellow. I would say that there are at least as many sombre or mellow songs on any given CH album (excepting maybe their debut - rarely identified as their best) as on either NF solo.

2. A "singer-songwriter" album is, by nature, weaker than a "band" album.

The data doesn't bear this out for me either. While this was certainly the case for Beatles album vs former-Beatle solo album (the Lennon/McCartney teamwork and competition, as well as the band vibe, being such a key factor in the greatness of the former) and maybe Police vs Sting. But I can't think of any other examples where this formula would work. Take Neil Young, for example. His "solo" stuff is just as strong as his Crazy Horse, CSNY or Buffalo Springfield stuff. Same for Van Morrison, Lou Reed, Eric Clapton, Peter Gabriel, and, I say resolvedly, Neil Finn.

That's not even taking into account the huge number of singer-songwriters who have never had a "band" album in the sense we're talking about.
quote:
Originally posted by Paināporo:
For whatever reason, when Neil is with Crowded House he seems more likely to just have fun rather than trying to prove himself as a songwriter every time. I think the element of fun was sorely missing from his two solo albums.


Hey Paināporo.

I don't agree about the comparative fun ratios in CH and NF solo material.

With the possible exception of Sister Madly, TOLM is not a lot fun... but it is, one could argue, the quintessential Crowded House album. It is certainly one of their best.

Furthermore, while his solo albums have their share of excellent dark stuff, I would wager the songs "Last One Standing","Dream Date", and "Rest Of The Day Off" are amongst the funnest (certainly most joyful) in Neil's canon.
Fantastic thread.

Nobody Wants To reminds me of Kare Kare.

She Will Have Her Way is a NF song that could easily have been CH.

People Are Like Suns reminds me of Into the Sunset.

I think that in general, "band" songs are produced differently from solo tracks, with attention to creating a more rounded sound. Imagine how Hole In the River would have sounded on a solo record. Imagine how "Driving Me Mad" would have sounded if on a CH album.
quote:
Originally posted by mattl:

I agree that the band tracks generally have more energy and are more fun, and I absolutely agree with those who say that Neil appears to relax and not take himself too seriously when he's with the band.

mattl


Hey mattl,

Once again, I have to disagree with the notion that Neil is more relaxed and less serious with the band compared to solo. Are we talking about on stage or in the studio? Either way, I disagree.
quote:
Originally posted by Watney Sideburns:

If one abides by the first understanding of "song," many if not all of the tracks on Time on Earth are "Crowded House" songs because they contain (which is what I think Comp is getting at) recognizable elements of other Crowded House song structures and sounds. So a song like English Trees may have been recorded as part of the Neil Finn solo album sessions, but the case can be made (as Comp has) that it is a "Crowded House" song: like some of the band's signature tunes, it starts with a strummed acoustic guitar (see Better Be Home Soon), employs multilayered vocal harmonies (see Sister Madly), and incorporates a few Celtic melodic flourishes (see Time Immemorial).


I would like to respond directly to Watney Sideburns now.

Hey, WS. Thanks again for this thread. I do not feel, as many seem to, that there is an easy way to distinguish between a Crowded House song and a Neil Finn song (in this first sense of "song" as an entity unto itself). Up to this point, this distinction has been described very vaguely with terms like "energy level", "tightness", or how "timeless" they are.

At least, Watney, you are using specific elements that provide a working description of a CH song. But if I use these specific criteria, I still find too significant a cross-over b/w NF and CH songs (signature or otherwise) to come to an agreement with you.

Let's look at your first criterion:
-prominent acoustic guitar pattern in intro... you mean like the beauty that kicks off "Last One Standing", or, say "Turn And Run"... oh, wait, those are NF solo tunes.

Second criterion:
-employs multi-layered vocal harmonies...
oh, as in "She Will Have Her Way", "Secret God" or "Driving Me Mad"... oops.

Third criterion:
-Celtic flourishes...
like, say, the mandolin in "The Climber". hmmm.

-rb
quote:
Originally posted by adidasman:
The part of your treatise that fascinates me most is the idea that Nick's bass playing was, for most of the Neil solo sessions, understated and inobtrusive - and then, particularly on the band tunes, he goes back to being the idiosyncratic Nick Seymour we know and adore. This makes perfect sense - as support for Neil, he plays one way, and, as a member of the band, his level of commitment and personal investment goes up. (I'd also guess that the likely melancholy of those earlier sessions might have contributed to the more somber approach to the songs, and to Nick's less exuberant playing.) The emotions of being in a room with a full band bashing away are also plenty inspiring, so I'm sure that was a factor as well.


Adidasman, I agree that Nick is a very melodic bassist and a great contributor to the band. But you seem to imply that "inobtrusive" bass playing is a characteristic of all of Neil's solo material (not just a characteristic of Nick's playing on the pre-Matt-and-Mark tunes on TOE). correct me if I'm wrong! -rb
I think this thread is finally getting down to what I have always believed in my heart makes a Crowded House song truly a Crowded House song. The only thing they all have in common and the only sure predictor or whether or not future songs are "Crowded House" is whether or not Neil Finn decides to call them Crowded House songs.

I know you guys are having fun dissecting all the elements of Neil's songs but I can't help picturing you all sitting in an ivory tower with big old headphones on saying things like, "oh, yes Nick is obviously playing Crowded House bass in 'Don't Stop Now' but it's much more Neil Finn solo in 'Pour Le Monde'." Or, "did you notice how the verses of 'She Called Up' are so Crowded Housey but that organ is so Neil Finn solo? How will we ever classify this one?"

As a fan I appreciate all the effort but in the end it's rather like the science of bloodletting. There may be a lot of anecdotal evidence but it's just seeing what you want to see or in this case hearing what you want to hear. Maybe you loved CH and only thought NF solo was alright. Perhaps then you're more inclined to say songs you like sound like CH and ones you don't are NF. There are as many variations on that one example as there are fans on this forum.

In fact, I think it was me who said it best the last time we had this conversation back in July of 2007.
I have been listening to Time on Earth today, on perpetual repeat, for probably the first time in over a year.

All I have to say is that it is awesome. Smiler Even better than I remembered it. Smiler

As for whether it's a Neil solo record or a Crowded House record - I have to come down firmly in the 'Neil solo record' camp.

I'm not quite sure what makes Crowded House Crowded House.

All I know is that these are intensely personal, beautiful songs, and all I'm hearing and thinking of is Neil as I listen to them. Even songs I disliked previously (Even A Child) are speaking me today for some reason.

The members of Crowded House do lend a good sound to Neil's songs...but really, without Neil the members of Crowded House would be nowhere.

As I was saying to a friend earlier today, I kind of feel these Time on Earth songs got short shrift by being incorporated into the CH reunion. I think they sort of got lost in the live performances, overwhelmed by the audiences' excitement of hearing Private Universe (or insert favorite CH song here) by 'Crowded House' after so many years.

But really....is 'Crowded House' just a label? Maybe. These Time on Earth songs are Neil songs through and through.

And I don't think Crowded House will ever truly be Crowded House without the personality of Paul Hester.

Neil can label his music anything he wants to. At the end of the day, it's all still Neil Finn music.

Man, I'm really revelling in Time on Earth today. No matter what label Neil has put on it. Wink
quote:
Originally posted by Ross Breithaupt:
quote:
Originally posted by Paul H:
I've always found it very hard to see past this as a solo album with four band songs in it. If you take the band tracks out it becomes a very sombre, mellow, reflective record which sonically sounds exactly like I expected the follow up to One Nil to sound: like a singer-songwriter record.


How's it going Paul H?

Well, you make at least two assumptions here which I would argue are questionable:

1. Neil Finn solo is, en masse, sombre, mellow and reflective compared to CH.

Reflective, maybe... but I don't see how you could substantiate sombre or mellow. I would say that there are at least as many sombre or mellow songs on any given CH album (excepting maybe their debut - rarely identified as their best) as on either NF solo.

2. A "singer-songwriter" album is, by nature, weaker than a "band" album.

The data doesn't bear this out for me either. While this was certainly the case for Beatles album vs former-Beatle solo album (the Lennon/McCartney teamwork and competition, as well as the band vibe, being such a key factor in the greatness of the former) and maybe Police vs Sting. But I can't think of any other examples where this formula would work. Take Neil Young, for example. His "solo" stuff is just as strong as his Crazy Horse, CSNY or Buffalo Springfield stuff. Same for Van Morrison, Lou Reed, Eric Clapton, Peter Gabriel, and, I say resolvedly, Neil Finn.

That's not even taking into account the huge number of singer-songwriters who have never had a "band" album in the sense we're talking about.


Hi Ross, Happy New Year!

Now, you see, you're putting words in my mouth Smiler

All I said was that, without the band tracks, TOE sounds how I would have expected the next NF solo album to sound: a more mellow, reflective offering than CH had ever provided us with. It's more melancholy air also reminds me more of the archetypal singer-songwriter. That wasn't to say it would be weaker (and I don't recall saying I thought it would be). And, while I don't think Neil's solo stuff could ever be called "weak" (here we agree) I do feel it to be less engaging overall than the four original CH albums.
I still ask everyone this: how do we know that Neil would have not taken Crowded House into a new direction anyway (the same direction as his solo works)? I mean, what is a Crowded House sound anyway? That is why I think when people say TOE sounds Neil solo I think TOE actually sounds like a different direction than Crowded House had back in the 80's and early 90's. I mean lets all get realistic: Crowded House has to evolve into something different, sound wise, than how they sounded before due to the simple fact that times and sounds have greatly changed (years and years have passed), and Neil's influences have been enhanced. So personally, I think Neil would have taken Crowded House to a new uncharted area (Crowded House wise), but he just did this transition as a solo artist because he had no other means to do it.
At risk of splitting hairs, I think TOE sounds like a Neil solo album moving in a different direction -- that is, when it doesn't sound like a Crowded House album moving in a different direction. You're right, of course, Renzo: Neil has changed over the years, as have the people who play with him and the technologies avaliable to them, which makes for different sounding music. And thank goodness for that.

What perhaps stays constant amidst all the changes, and this is the point I've been belaboring throughout this thread, is a certain performance chemistry Neil enjoys with Nick Seymour that we don't always find in the "solo" recordings. That doesn't diminish the quality of those recordings one jot. Some of my favourite Finn-penned tunes are on his solo albums; Try Whistling This remains, for me, one of the pinnacles of his musical career. I still get weak in the knees when I hear Souvenir or Twisty Bass, for instance. But there *does* seem to be something special that happens when Neil plays with Nick -- particularly when Nick acts as collaborator rather than mere sideman.

None of which detracts from the magic unfolding at Roundhead and at the Powerstation with the 7 Worlds Collide II project. Neil, Johnny, Sebastian, Lisa, Phil, Ed, Wilco et al. simply have a different chemistry, neither better nor worse than the one he (hopefully!) continues to enjoy with Nick.

Add Reply

Post
    All times London, UK.

    ©1998-Eternity, Frenz.com. All post content is the copyrighted work of the person who wrote it. Please don't copy, reproduce, or publish anything you see written here without the author's permission.
×
×
×
×
Link copied to your clipboard.
×
×