Neil Finn – Dizzy Heights (2014)
It’s one thing to respect an artist for refusing to play it safe, but it’s another thing entirely to actually enjoy their deliberately non-commercial work. I’m a fan of Neil Finn… mostly. I think he’s a great bloke and believe that he has written some of the greatest songs of the last thirty years, but he has also been responsible for a lot of rather underwhelming stuff too (“Try Whistling This”, “Finn”, “Pajama Club”). “Dizzy Heights”, for me, belongs in the latter category and is only rescued from being something I will file away and never listen to again by a handful of songs. Being mindful of the fact that one of my favourite albums of all time Crowded House’s, “Together Alone”, took quite a few plays to fully appreciate, I decided to give this album a good hearing before committing my thoughts into words. Sadly, this is no “Together Alone”; it could, of course, be argued that very few albums measure up to such a great album, but “Dizzy Heights” isn’t even an “Intriguer”.
There are a handful of songs which stop this project from being a bit of a dud. The title track has hints of greatness – it’s a light, sunny pop song, with splashes of strings and a slight soulful feel to it, like a decent World Party single from the nineties whereas the likeable “Flying In The Face Of Love” has elements of one of Tears For Fears’ more smooth efforts. When I heard it a few weeks before the album was released, I was utterly intrigued by lead single, “Divebomber”, which has a distinct Mercury Rev feel to it and still now consider it to be one of the most inventive, melodic, captivating pieces on this album. Surely putting it out as a single was an act of mischief, though? “Recluse” works well, with some entertaining lyrics and is very pleasing to the ear, musically, and my last pick of the album is the genuinely good “Strangest Friends” which sounds a little like it could be an album track from Bowie’s last album, “The Next Day”. “In My Blood” deserves an honourable mention for being the only track here which could potentially fit in on a Crowded House release, however, none of these songs could be called a work of genius – even the best tracks on “Dizzy Heights” don’t compare favourably with most Crowded House B-sides.
Let’s face it, if you’re a Neil Finn fan, you will buy this album anyway. It’s not a bad piece of work, but that’s about as generous as I feel I can be – it’s average. There are a few songs on here that make it just about worth buying, but I suspect that most people will find themselves respecting Neil’s artistry on the album without actually really enjoying it that much. It’s listenable, it’s inoffensive, it’s well recorded, performed and also relatively original – but it doesn’t particularly excite, isn’t leftfield enough to at least be seen to be stretching boundaries and also fails to connect on an emotional level throughout the vast majority of the material on offer here. When you know what Neil is capable of, it’s difficult to feel anything other than frustration when you listen to “Dizzy Heights” and look forward to the next Crowded House project when, hopefully, he will be forced to break out the real melodies. Sorry, Neil.