IKON - December 1995, page 69
by Peter Greenhoff

Everywhere he goes, he always takes his brother with him. The flying FINNS find two's a crowd.

"It's just a D-minor. Lots of songs have D-minors in them," exclaims a somewhat embarrassed Neil Finn.

Ah, but it's just not that simple, I assure him. You make it sound like the saddest moment in the world, the moment where one person's jolly make-do facade cracks and the grim truth floods over the surface. We're talking about Crowded House's Weather With You, and more specifically the point at which Neil sings, "Things ain't cooking in my kitchen/Strange affliction/Wash over me." It's the moment where a simple pop song about coming to terms with who you are, starts to give way to grave undercurrents. And, like in almost every song he's written, the feeling that Something Is Not Quite Right. "Well," concludes Neil, trying to come to terms with the foul decor of this London hotel bar, "if it makes any difference, it's preceded by a D-minor."

Neil's elder brother of six years, Tim, is similarly enamoured of Neil's ability to unwittingly compress all the darkest moments of Revolver into the perfect pop song: "That's the bizarre thing about Crowded House when you consider their live following. Neil's songs do have a melancholic or doubting strain. Yet on stage they have this reputation for stand-up routines concerning the drummer's haemorrhoids. Go figure."

Of course, Tim himself is no stranger to the odd canny pop trick. Since Tim and Neil disbanded their first band, New Zealand art-pop mavericks Split Enz, Tim's succession of exquisitely fashioned solo albums (Before and After and Big Canoe are particularly recommended) have carved out a more solitary, nomadic persona, hampered only by a fatal love of the opposite sex (perhaps it's something to do with being married to Greta Scacchi).

And yet, ever since that first band split up, both seem to have spent the last 20 years looking over their shoulders wondering what the other one's up to. How else do you explain Tim's brief period in Crowded House; then Tim's just as sudden departure from Crowded House; then Split Enz briefly reforming for a tour in 1993? Well, in 1995, here's the final twist in the plot: Tim and Neil bugger off to a remote New Zealand resort, write and record an entire album in a month - entitled Finn - which shimmers with all the glory-eyed solitude you'd expect to find in a postcard from the end of the world. And it's absolutely brilliant. "It's much easier for us to collaborate now," says Neil. "Way back when we were in Split Enz, I was just the little brother in my big brother's band, but psychologically that mentality stays with you for much longer than just the duration of the group."

"That's right," nods his elder, between sips of English Breakfast. "I remember when I joined Crowded House for the writing and recording of Woodface; we both thought we'd rid ourselves of that psychological baggage, but everything flared up in the ensuing live dates. Neil found himself feeling awkward because his older brother was standing there. And I was standing there and I was awkward because this time around, it was Neil's group and I was trying to find my way into it."

"Funnily enough," interjects Neil, "I felt like I couldn't presume to talk to the audience because I'd stepped straight back into younger-brother mode."

It's not that Finn sees Tim and Neil finally toning down their differences, so much as allowing their individual eccentricities to surprise each other. Mood Swinging Man bears all the hallmarks of Tim's humanistic world view, underpinned perfectly by Neil's way with a cloistered, intimate melody; the current single Suffer Never came about when Tim picked up on "the poetic quality of some phrases that Neil didn't even realise he was uttering during a piano improvisation"; and then there's Kiss The Road Of Rarotonga which rocks in a way that Neil's far too bashful to even try: "That one," says Tim, "pretty much sums up the spontaneity with which we made this album. Mopeds were the main form of transport in the part of New Zealand where we were recording, and I had an accident on my bike..."

"He was only doing about five miles per hour..." adds Neil with some relish.

"So I went to the hospital to get myself seen to, and all the nurses were barefoot there, which was a very striking image. The first thing one of them said to me, half-scornfully and half-flirtatiously, was, 'You kissed the road of Rarotonga.' I had to immortalise her in song: I mean, it's just not quite the same when you check into Middlesex General, is it?"

So how long do you think you'll stay together this time, guys?

"It's not really a question of that, this time around," ponders Neil. "We both have our own things on the go at the moment, but this was special. There's a long, long history that's led to this album. But the ironic thing is, it worked because we just allowed ourselves to be young boys again."

thanks to Linda Grudgings [] for typing this out

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