September 15, 2004
If I'm a little cranky about the state of rock, pop, and hiphop these days, it's probably because more than anything in music, I prize a great melody. The music industry is full of players with great instrumental chops, and quite a few lyricists know how to string words together deftly. But how many composers are capable of writing a tune with the fully-rounded melodies of some of my musical idols, like Burt Bacharach, Brian Wilson, and Stevie Wonder?
In the past twenty years, even my trinity of melody haven't been able to duplicate their finest work of the sixties and seventies. Which is why I so prize the work of Kiwi brothers Neil and Tim Finn. If their names don't ring a bell, you'll probably recognize them from their former groups, Split Enz and Crowded House, and their two biggest U.S. hits, "Don't Dream It's Over" and "Something So Strong," both featuring irresistible melodies. Crowded House released four wonderful albums, and I recommend them all, although their greatest hits album is well chosen and remarkably consistent, a great introduction to the spiritual heirs of the Beatles and Beach Boys.
Crowded House broke up in the mid-1990's. Although it isn't quite up to the level of the best of Crowded House, the second Finn Brothers album, Everyone Is Here, is one of the best CD's of the year, and without much radio support, is becoming a big hit (as I write this, the CD is number 32 on Amazon's bestseller list). The Amazon link will allow you to listen to virtually the whole CD, and if you want to see a video of one of the many great songs on the CD, here's the video of "Won't Give In."
If you have a chance to see the Finns live, jump on it. Although almost all of their songs have an undercurrent of melancholy, they are hilarious and charming performers. While their songs are irony-free, they are witty in the flesh -- a perfect combination. The new CD features many fuller productions than their first duo-CD, and strings and complex arrangements serve them well, although some of the songs feature acoustic guitars. Maybe the success of Everyone Is Here will inspire budding melodists.