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4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 21 March 2001
Neil's new album 'One - Nil' is both a continuation of the experimentation of Try Whistling This and a harking back to the values and approaches of Crowded House.
Produced by Tchad Blake, a range of top notch musicians appear on the CD including Sheryl Crow, Wendy & Lisa, Jim Moginie and Jim Keltner. Despite Neil's recent stints at Largo there is no sign of any musical input from Jon Brion. Hope that particular musical union could be consummated someday. (Check out JB's 'Meaningless')
Tracks :
1 The Climber
A droning intro leads into an almost REM/Neil Young type song that soon hints at Neil's CH heritage prompting '..a smile between us.'. PS Has the e-bow become today's didgeridoo I ask myself?
2 Rest Of The Day Off
Mid tempo song that could have easily fitted onto 'Finn'. Atmospheric guitars with a bit of CH freaking out at one stage. Other phases of the track include a Bowie 'Ashes to ashes' interlude. A real grower ......
3 Hole In The Ice
Coming straight out of 'Rest of the day off' this is a pretty pacy track about....well I'm not really sure. Lyrics include Neil singing about making fire, Eskimos giving him lines for his songs and therapy 'one on one'. Happenstance perchance? Son Liam makes an appearance on backing vocals.
4 Wherever You Are
Familiar from Largo and an excellent song. Unfortunately here the drum machine intro irritates (though I admit that all drum machines irritate me!). Still, the acoustic version from Largo may well have the edge. Sharon sings backing vocals with Mitchell Froom making one of his many contributions to the album on keyboards.
5 The Last To Know
A slow ballad with a nice production. Lisa contributes violin, adding to the atmosphere, with Sharon on backing vocals - a 'true companion at your side'.
6 Don't Ask Why
'I've never been to heaven but it feels alright.' sings Neil on this uptempo rocker not a million miles away from something Sheryl Crow might write. Ironically she does not appear on this track. Wendy displays her many talents by playing drums, bass and guitar - how many hands does she have? Likely to be a standout song when the tour starts.
7 Secret God
Bucking the trend, this to me sounds better than the Largo version. Maybe it 's the additional instruments giving more light and shade. Some menacing/malevolent guitar work and I'm sure Neil will be proud of the jazzy, Steely Dan-like ending. ;-)
8 Turn And Run
Just another great Neil Finn ballad. Sheryl Crow shares vocal duties. Some sort of flashback to childhood perhaps with images of Neil standing with his 'plastic gun'? But he's with us in 'body and music and mind'.
9 Elastic Heart
Hmmm. Odd tune, odd lyrics. Unlike anything else on the album, I wonder if it is a nod towards Wendy and Lisa's background. The 'Black and White Boy' of 'One-Nil'?
10 Anytime
Seems sharper and more driving than the Largo version. With the wistful
lyrics ('I could go at anytime') this is unexpected. I can see Neil doing an acoustic solo spot in concert with this one.
11 Driving Me Mad
Almost country and western in feel. Sheryl Crow again shares vocals. 'But most of all it's music taking me, It's driving me mad, Still I can't refuse' .
12 Into The Sunset
Really nice album closer. Would not be out of place on Together Alone. Reversed guitars, Mitchell on celeste and Sheryl on accordion.
Overall this is a very satisfying album with enough Crowded House touches to please past fans whilst moving forward with new sounds and musical partners and adding a number of new classics to the Neil Finn canon.
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on 31 March 2001
Finally! Here it is . . . ! The solo album that should have been (after the good, but world-weary "Try Whistling This"). Lots of loose experimentation, new sounds, and groove, groove, groove -- and some truely odd, inspired moments. Beautiful, more straightforward moments like "Driving Me Mad" and "Secret God" are juxtaposed with the darker, experimental moments like "Elastic Heart" and "Anytime."
But that's always been Neil's trademark. For every "Message for my girl," there has been a "Bullet Brain and Plastic Head." For every "Take a Walk," there's been a "Log Cabin Fever." For every "Distant Sun," there's been a "Black and White Boy." And gee, there isn't a single song on "Temple of Low Men" one couldn't call dark.
What is a plus here are all the layers of distorted violins, harmoniums, beat boxes, and various other unconventionalities that give the record and otherwordly feel.
Mr. Finn should be proud.
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on 11 May 2001
It's a funny thing but Neil Finn seems to be one of those song writers who is always on the verge of producing one of the all time classic records. It's hard to put your finger on what it would take to lift Neil Finn's records up to the "Classic" level. Perhaps the problem is that his songs are just too good - they seem to promise true greatness but just miss out. You're always left with the thought, "blimey if this bloke can do something that good then he must be able to do something better". Poor Neil! He seems to be cursed with some of the highest, and possibly most unreasonable expectations in pop music.
That said, One Nil (the terrible title aside!) is a huge improvement on Try Whistling This. That album sounded a little too much like it was trying not to be Crowded House. The result was a patchy and slightly soulless record. One Nil has a greater consistency both in terms of it's feel and the quality of material. Given that Neil Finn would have to try quite hard to write a rubbish song, the key to this improvement is not so much the songs as the performance. Here the contributions of Wendy and Lisa cannot be underestimated. They seem to add a level of melody and punch - and Neil Finn certainly needs a bit of the latter at times. What Neil Finn needs is a foil to add a bit of edge because without it he tends to sound a bit sweet. Wendy and Lisa do this job with some aplomb.
In short this is a very very good record which has been resident on my CD player for almost a week now. It lacks that bit of energy or punch or whatever you want to call it, but it is still arguably the best thing he has ever done. If the next album (and let's hope it roles around a bit quicker than this one) can capture a bit more of that edginess lacking on this, and every other Neil Finn/Crowded House record come to think of it, then Neil Finn may have finally recorded a classic of our times. Get Tom Waits in to produce it perhaps.
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on 17 March 2001
Album Review :
Neil's new album 'One - Nil' is both a continuation of the experimentation of Try Whistling This and a harking back to the values and approaches of Crowded House.
Produced by Tchad Blake, a range of top notch musicians appear on the CD including Sheryl Crow, Wendy & Lisa, Jim Moginie and Jim Keltner. Despite Neil's recent stints at Largo there is no sign of any musical input from Jon Brion. Hope that particular musical union could be consummated someday. (Check out JB's 'Meaningless')
Tracks :
1 The Climber
A droning intro leads into an almost REM/Neil Young type song that soon hints at Neil's CH heritage prompting '..a smile between us.'. PS Has the e-bow become today's didgeridoo I ask myself?
2 Rest Of The Day Off
Mid tempo song that could have easily fitted onto 'Finn'. Atmospheric guitars with a bit of CH freaking out at one stage. Other phases of the track include a Bowie 'Ashes to ashes' interlude. A real grower ......
3 Hole In The Ice
Coming straight out of 'Rest of the day off' this is a pretty pacy track about....well I'm not really sure. Lyrics include Neil singing about making fire, Eskimos giving him lines for his songs and therapy 'one on one'. Happenstance perchance? Son Liam makes an appearance on backing vocals.
4 Wherever You Are
Familiar from Largo and an excellent song. Unfortunately here the drum machine intro irritates (though I admit that all drum machines irritate me!). Still, the acoustic version from Largo may well have the edge. Sharon sings backing vocals with Mitchell Froom making one of his many contributions to the album on keyboards.
5 The Last To Know
A slow ballad with a nice production. Lisa contributes violin, adding to the atmosphere, with Sharon on backing vocals - a 'true companion at your side'.
6 Don't Ask Why
'I've never been to heaven but it feels alright.' sings Neil on this uptempo rocker not a million miles away from something Sheryl Crow might write. Ironically she does not appear on this track. Wendy displays her many talents by playing drums, bass and guitar - how many hands does she have? Likely to be a standout song when the tour starts.
7 Secret God
Bucking the trend, this to me sounds better than the Largo version. Maybe it 's the additional instruments giving more light and shade. Some menacing/malevolent guitar work and I'm sure Neil will be proud of the jazzy, Steely Dan-like ending. ;-)
8 Turn And Run
Just another great Neil Finn ballad. Sheryl Crow shares vocal duties. Some sort of flashback to childhood perhaps with images of Neil standing with his 'plastic gun'? But he's with us in 'body and music and mind'.
9 Elastic Heart
Hmmm. Odd tune, odd lyrics. Unlike anything else on the album, I wonder if it is a nod towards Wendy and Lisa's background. The 'Black and White Boy' of 'One-Nil'?
10 Anytime
Seems sharper and more driving than the Largo version. With the wistful
lyrics ('I could go at anytime') this is unexpected. I can see Neil doing an acoustic solo spot in concert with this one.
11 Driving Me Mad
Almost country and western in feel. Sheryl Crow again shares vocals. 'But most of all it's music taking me, It's driving me mad, Still I can't refuse' .
12 Into The Sunset
Really nice album closer. Would not be out of place on Together Alone. Reversed guitars, Mitchell on celeste and Sheryl on accordion.
Overall this is a very satisfying album with enough Crowded House touches to please past fans whilst moving forward with new sounds and musical partners and adding a number of new classics to the Neil Finn canon.
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on 27 April 2001
Having seen Neil in concert last night, he still has that spark that few contemporary performers have, making an entire concert hall worship him for two hours. His performance is immaculate, funny, some great guitar playing and still has one of the best rock/pop voices today. The backing band is different from the 'Try Whistling This' tour and some of the playing is exceptional - the bassist is fantastic (can't remember his name) and Lisa Germano supplies sublime backing vocals and a range of instruments.
Some of my favourite albums (Tindersticks, Delgados, Grandaddy) have taken a week or so of listening to grow on me; so far One Nil is going the right way about it. After a week of listening, and getting under it's skin, I'm beginning to love it the way I love Crowded House 'Together Alone'. In fact, this is Neil's best collection of songs apart from the near-perfect 'Together Alone'. 'The Climber' opens the album and features a beautiful, classic Finn melody; just as good are 'Last To Know' and 'Into The Sunset'. 'Hole In The Ice' is this album's 'Loose Tongue' and is a better song to boot. The singles, 'Wherever You Are' and 'Rest Of The Day Off' are excellent, and real growers, although 'Wherever...' didn't seem to work as well live. What did work really well live, however, is 'Turn And Run'. Not many songs make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, but this song is one of Neil's best works - ever! Probably the best song is 'Driving Me Mad' which is a perfect example of Neil's guitar-playing, vocals, abstract melody and arrangement. The rest are good, some great, and overall a better consistent quality than 'Try Whistling This' which should probably have been a couple of songs shorter. No filler on this album though.
So, the bottom line. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds have made possibly the best album this year, but if you buy that you should buy the best rock/pop alternative, which is this Neil Finn album (pushing Stephen Malkmus into a very close second). Finn's best collection of songs apart from 'Together Alone'.
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on 1 April 2001
Fans who used to sing along to 'Weather With You' and 'Don't Dream It's Over', and who used to enjoy the unique chemistry and humour of Crowded House live, will not necessarily have fallen in love with Neil's solo work. 'One Nil' is a far more sophisticated and challenging album than, say, 'Woodface', which was simple and sweet pop genius.
This album carries on where 'Try Whistling This' left off - it's darker, moodier, more in the vein of the collaboration with his brother on the 1995 'Finn' album. It's also a very classy piece of work; experimental or not, each track stands up to scrutiny and yields new emotional content with each play. On first listen, the album doesn't hit you with harmonic, sing-along gems, but that's the point, as there's far more staying power inherent here, more subtleties to return to, than in the days of Crowded House. The fact that the first three tracks merge into each other is no coincidence, as it sets the tone for the album: it's a gliding trip through a serene sonic universe. Each song is individually crafted, but in a sense it doesn't do full justice to focus on the tunes in isolation, because the whole album is just so damned good. Having said that, initial stand-out tracks for me were 'Hole In The Ice', which mixes anger with melancholy, with shouted verses fusing into a superb synth chorus; 'Secret God', which is wonderfully relaxed and lilting, the kind of track that has you drifting away until it concludes in an other-worldly, sci-fi-esque ending; and 'Anytime', which could hardly be described as lyrically up-beat ('I could go at any time/ there's nothing safe about this life'), but which has a certain jangly hook that has you singing along in no time.
All in all, Neil once again easily evades the naffdom of fourty-something music to produce an album of musical integrity in a world of pop clichés.
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on 28 May 2001
okay, there's not much to say about this album really, except that it's caught my full attention and keeps me listening to it over and over again. i haven't been so anxious about an album since... well, sting's "brand new day" probably, although it's a little more "difficult" that "try whistling this". here are my favourites: "whatever you are" ... with its haunting melodie and the brilliant chorus. "driving me mad" ... just drives me mad each time i listen to it. TURN IT UP! "don't ask why" ... a rocker, that's for sure. you can hear he's having fun rocking this time! "secret god" ... first i skipped it when the instrumental part in the middle started, but after a few times listening i found the third verse afterwards so liberating after the noise that i had to love it. finally, "into the sunset" ... reminds me of the feeling i wanted to give a song i've written and i never managed to. this is it! great.
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on 2 February 2006
Neil Finn is for sure one the best songwritters i know. It's his wicked words with tenderness, and love and all the emocions that you can feel in a song. "One Nil" is the last album i bought of him, and on my first listening i though it will not reach the brillance that for my was "Try Whistling this" (King Tide!!!), but well it surprised me. It was really amazing! "Hole in the ice" is just wonderful, "Don't ask why" is really funny, "Last to know" soft and true,"Anytime" hope in the death, all are wonderful, just great, but one surpass all, "Driving my mad" really put in your heart all the desperation and sad that love sometimes may be. Buy it if you don't have it and if you have it enjoy to the bone!
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on 6 January 2003
With One Nil, Finn appears to have struck gold in his attempts to remould his great talent for classic melody with more exotic aural scapes than his previous unit ever dared create. Finn incorporates ambient electronica into many of the songs for a more fertile atmosphere. Treated drums, programmed loops, controlled guitar feedback, tremolo synthesiser and eerie mellotron, none of them ill fitting. Despite this, the backbone of the songs remains Finn, his guitar and the melody.
The album has a more consistent sound than his first solo album (1998's critically acclaimed 'Try Whistling This'), well demonstrated in Finn's clever merging of the three opening tracks of the album including the poppy 'Taking the Rest of the Day Off' and the edgy 'Hole in the Ice'. Sheryl Crow adds sensitive harmonies to two outstanding tracks: 'Turn & Run' and the wrenching 'Driving Me Mad'. Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman, mainstays of Prince's Revolution, also join Finn to play and co-write a few songs on the album including the lilting, dream-like 'Secret God'. 'Anytime' sees Neil pondering death fairly cheerfully in an outstanding track. Finn's lyrics on this album are as meticulous as ever. There is plenty of doubt and darkness, but love offers comfort, as does humour. The album has all you might expect from the man who penned impeccable hits like: 'Don't Dream It's Over', 'Weather With You' and 'Fall at your Feet'.
Despite shunning the bright lights to bring up his family in New Zealand, Finn has earned considerable international success, respect from his peers (famous fans including Noel Gallagher, Elvis Costello, Pearl Jam and Radiohead), praise from his critics, and a devoted fan base that hangs on his every release. He says: "I haven't discovered fully what the Neil Finn sound is, but I'm enjoying the exploration". You're not the only one Neil...
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on 15 February 2002
I gave this a spin in my CD player when I bought it... and that was it. Back in the case it went and promptly went on to gather dust on my shelf. My initial impression? Self-indulgent, dull and boring.
However, whilst browsing though my collection a few months later, looking for something to play, I thought, "I'll give this a go, again," so I did just that.
"Stick with it," I thought. So I did just that.
"Hmm. There's some potential. Keep listening," so I did just that.
Can you see where I'm going with this?
After a few plays, the quality of the songs shine through. It's not aimed at the commercial, "plastic pop," market that is predominant in the music industry today. Instead, it is much more crafted and musically-engineered. There are twists and turns that aurally stimulate you and I've found that I hear new things every time I play it.
Neil Finn is nothing short of a genius: this album reflects the personal and musical effort that he has put in to it.
Okay, so it is bit different from "Try Whistling This" and radically different from the Crowded House material, but now Neil has matured, so has his music. All this explains why the lyrics have grown up, too.
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