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Can he ever match Together Alone?
on 11 April 2001
We owe a lot to Neil Finn. Together Alone, the album he wrote and recorded with Crowded House in 1993, is arguably the greatest pop record ever made in the Southern Hemisphere. Indeed, that band's whole output was so strong that songs as fabulous as In My Command, with its thrilling counterpoints of abrasion and tenderness, and Nails in My Feet ("Your skin is like water on a burning beach/ And it brings me relief"), never made the final Best Of. Neil was one of the top five songwriters in the world.
Two words spring to mind now, though: 'Paul' and 'McCartney'. From the creative ferment of a fractious band to solo work born of marital contentment, they have a lot in common. And who prefers Press to Play over Revolver? One Nil is not a bad album, is probably better than Try Whistling This, and would not disappoint if it wasn't for the expectations raised by former glories. Here, songs like 'Secret God' (its intro promising a 'Recurring Dream') and the Sheryl Crow collaboration 'Turn and Run' start off well, and you think they're going to burst into rapturous choruses, but they don't. They do have choruses - so it's not that he's just being experimental - but they are lumpen, uninspired ones. The single 'Wherever You Are' is this album's 'She Will Have Her Way', paying lip service to the melodic focus of Crowded House but somehow failing to come to life. The first and the last two tracks are certainly the stand-outs, with 'Into the Sunset' in particular rewarding our patience. It proves that Neil still has a marvellous voice, and that he uses it as an instrument rather than a mere vehicle for lyrics.
Neil Finn is a superb live performer, and in concert will probably bring this album to life as he did the previous one. Ultimately, though, we can only hope that his gift for making truly great records is dormant rather than expired.