Liam Finn - I'll Be Lightning

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Fun. As an adult, I can “do” that. Mario Karts on Nintendo, that’s fun. Mario Karts against family and friends is even more fun. Whirlyball? Oh yeah! Halo on X-box live… well, it would be fun if I could find someone to shoot before I’m scored on someone else’s kill count.

But there’s also an exuberant type of fun that I haven’t really had since maybe college, the type where it’s just pure play for the enjoyment of the moment. Looking at the cover of Liam Finn’s first solo CD, "I'll Be Lightning," there’s a hint of that type of fun...leaping through the air in winged flight… Or maybe he’s just being goofy, but at his age, I suppose that’s fun too.

Liam is the son of Neil Finn, of some celebrity by way of the group Crowded House. Today, Neil Finn writes very intelligent lyrics and marries them to superbly crafted music, usually anyway. The son? He learned a lot on his father’s knee. Or guitar. Or drums. Unlike dad, he’s not so methodical about getting it perfect, but takes in the moment for what it is.

Liam plays almost every instrument on the CD, and throughout there is a playful enthusiasm. Whereas his father stops with what sounds “just right,” Liam often reaches beyond the boundaries of expected norms, taking different instruments to different places, and reeling them back in again to serve the piece. He has enough pop sensibility that in most cases, the melodies are memorable, and you find yourself tapping your feet as you listen along. He uses Abbey Road-era Beatles’ vocal harmonies to perfect several of his songs, while using it to keep others accessible when instrumentally they wander off the beaten path.

Lyrically, he usually speaks to uncertain relationships, with an honest approach and candid observations. “Remember when you made another friend and I knew what he was up to, but I know that I can trust you; Eventually I ached with jealousy and I don't know what came over me.”

His lyrics can become obtuse at times, but there’s enough verses to pull a theme together, and there are poetic moments as well, such as “Night is just the day giving in.” Throughout, there’s something optimistic, and if he occasionally throws in something that detracts, he gets high marks for trying. And besides, there’s too many artists who play it safe. Overall, this is a musician at play, with the best of instincts.

Recommended tracks: “Better to Be,” “Fire in Your Belly,” “Energy Spent,” “Remember When.”

4 Stars.


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