Liam Finn - Champagne in Seashells
Nick Lewis 16/08/2009
There's an episode of The Simpsons where Lisa is accused of being a polymath, a status that will inevitably lead to being a jack of all trades and master of none. Liam Finn strikes me as possibly being similar. He's not quite sure what he's doing yet.
Opener Plane Crash starts with an insistent drum machine and a hypnotic pedal tone guitar riff, building to a big, chaotic sounding chorus with lots of swirly synths. It's reminiscent of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot era Wilco in its use of dynamics and extraneous sounds. It is by far the most interesting thing on this EP which gets steadily more boring throughout.
Second track Long Way Home reveals a much more standard song, with a Cake like guitar riff, there's something almost early Blur like in its delivery. It's n infectious groove and a pretty catchy song, but nothing to write home about. From there, the songs just get exponentially more throwaway, a fact Finn seems possibly aware of as he tries to cover it up with layer upon layer of 'weird' sounds. There's a lot of reversed, sped up lines thrown at the songs with all the joy of The Beatles having just discovered Stockhausen, but none of the novelty. Instead it just feels like the songs are crowded by an incredibly self-conscious effort to be interesting.
This notion seems to grow steadily more irresistible to Finn as the EP moves forward, interjecting 'strange' instrumental passages between songs and letting closer Captain Cat is Crying clock in at a full 8 minutes - the song only really starting 5 minutes in (following an extended reading surrounded by building weird noises).
And that is the crux of the issue for Finn, he wants to balance his almost 90s pop/rock with his urge to create interesting electronica. Unfortunately he's not particularly good at the balance. His voice is unremarkable and occasionally annoying, much like his songs and his electronica is too knowingly strange and just ends up sounding like he's trying too hard.
To be fair to him, he does show the occasional flash of genuine inspiration, in particular the penultimate track On Your Side displays a Tricky-esque appreciation for submerged beats and female vocals, but he abandons it before the song is properly finished. Once Finn decides what he's trying to do and commits to it, he could be onto something. For now Champagne in Seashells sounds like work of a pop musician just discovering his experimental side.
Release date: 17.08.09