As a singer-songwriter, Neil Finn has been known to create tunes that are both beautifully simple (Split Enz’s “One Step Ahead”) and simply beautiful (Crowded House’s “Don’t Dream It’s Over”). Simplicity has been part of his oeuvre since day one, but on his latest solo album, Dizzy Heights, things get a bit more involved.
As Finn explains by phone from a tour stop in his old stomping grounds of Melbourne, Australia, his recent work has seen him move beyond straightforward, melodic pop into more complex and challenging arrangements.
“I’m definitely trying to push the boundaries with every record I do,” explains the 55-year-old kiwi, “and this one no less so. I guess to some degree it comes from working with [producer] Dave Fridmann, who’s very good at putting together soundscapes that are rich and deep and have kind of—for want of a better word—psychedelic overtones.
“But I just enjoyed being able to be free with whatever we decided,” he adds. “Some stuff is mysterious—I don’t even know what it is myself. And there’s a lot of reward for repeat listenings.”
Finn made the adventurous journey on Dizzy Heights accompanied by, among others, the three people closest to him—wife Sharon (bass and vocals), eldest son Liam (guitar and vocals), and younger son Elroy (drums).
“It was an opportunity that came about when the boys were free,” he explains, “and I just thought it would be good for us all to spend some quality family time. And it’s a hot band! I wouldn’t have chosen anyone else to work with, anyway.”
There are two tracks on the new album where it’s just the four Finns going at it as a quartet, and a familial tightness is indeed evident on “Pony Ride” and “Strangest Friends”. So for someone who’s both a dedicated musician and a family man, is that the ultimate achievement, making music with those you love the most?
“Well, it’s certainly one of the ultimate achievements,” he replies. “And I would look forward to doing it in a more focused way, where everybody gets to write, at some point. But these things have to find their own time and their own place; you can’t impose an order on a family.”
You can impose order on a set list, though. And one quick visit to the Setlist website for the previous night’s show in Canberra reveals that no fewer than eight songs from Dizzy Heights could make the cut when he plays Vancouver’s Vogue Theatre this Saturday.
“I’d happily do all 11 on the record if I could,” Finn notes, “but I realize that that’s testing the patience of an audience to get a whole album in there. So I’d say seven or eight is a pretty good number, and we’re getting a few songs from my solo career, and some old faves. I don’t think anyone’s been complaining.”