In 1996, a TV advert ran with the tagline, “you know more Crowded House songs than you think you do.”
It was clever, but also true. The inherent catchiness in Neil Finn’s songwriting paired with lyrics that sit on a knife’s edge between reality and dreams ensure that his songs, once in your brain, are hard to get out again.
Finn’s second solo record picked up where his first left off, with a slightly stronger emphasis on sonic experimentation, but never at the expense of that gift for writing songs you think you’ve known all your life, even after the first listen.
I’ve listened to One Nil, Neil Finn’s second solo record, more times than I can count, so I forget the feeling of discovering its songs initially. But the lead single “Wherever You Are” feels fresh to me every time I hear it.
Produced by Finn, Mitchell Froom, and the album’s main producer, Tchad Blake, it’s a warm, luscious listen with yearning chords and a deep streak of romanticism that mostly makes the lyrics stand out as a little more transparent than many of Finn’s other songs.
Squelchy beats and strumming introduce the track and Finn sings:
Wherever you are
It’s 3am and I’m awake
It’s immediately intriguing, lovers separated by distance. Then he sings:
Imagine the light
Upon your blue transparent face
Through coloured glass
That filters down to warmest red
Right there is the dream-like quality to his writing: a beautiful evocation of light and colour to paint a hazy image in his mind of someone he can’t be with.
Straight after that, it’s into a chorus of tumbling chords and potently romantic lyrics:
I’m the one who reads your mind
See my life in your design
True companion at your side
The next verse lists more things about this person that are noteworthy, including the peerless line:
Restless and brave when laid upon suburban grass
As piano lines and splashes of guitar float around the words, the song heads into the chorus again. But Neil Finn has always constructed his songs cleverly and with great economy so that they seldom feel as if a second is wasted. This time the chorus gives way to a bridge of sorts, with playful, almost frivolous chords that send us somewhere unexpected as he sings
I’ll give you something
For when I’m not around
To make you smile
And if you think it then it must be true
If only I could make it through
Climb into my bed
And then he sings the song’s title with yearning, slightly sad chords behind, a traveller weary of the journey and longing to be with his companion again.
After the bridge again, the songs spirals into the distance as guitars and feedback sounds start to overtake him singing the title over and over. He seems to be falling, pleading for his love to be near him at some point in the nearest future he can possibly conjure with his voice and the most beautiful of tunes.
It’s achingly romantic, perhaps his most romantic moment ever.
And as one of his lesser known songs, it sits patiently, like the character in the song, waiting to be brought back home by romantics everywhere.
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