REVIEW album Old Subbacultcha Old Subbacultcha

Liam Finn crawls further down the rabbit hole than ever before on his 4th solo album

Old Subbacultcha

Old Subbacultcha

The Nihilist sees the 30 year old Finn move out from his father's shadow and into a much darker, weirder shadow of his own design.


Liam Finn – The Nihilist (OUT NOW via Yep Roc)

Musician sons of famous fathers will always benefit and suffer from the blessing and the curse of their father's shadow. From Julian Lennon to Rufus Wainwright and even Jeff Buckley, there has rarely been an artist spawned from a famous father who has managed to pursue a career without somebody asking “So how much like his dad's stuff it it then?” In the case of Liam Finn, son of Crowded House frontman Neil Finn, the answer to that question would (at least on the evidence of this 4
th solo album) be; not a jot. This is an odd, but lovingly crafted indie rock record which is more Sparklehorse than Crowded House, and is all the better for it. The fact that the opening 'Ocean Emmanuelle' builds its wavy melancholy over a chord progression I've probably heard recycled more times than the amen break, doesn't do much to dissuade me of its charms. Finn's voice is a hushed whisper over subtle rhythms and swirling effects and he harmonises with himself in a manner fans of Joseph Arthur will be more than familiar with. It's a subtle opening gambit, but then this is a subtle album, an album that takes the soft-rock template laid down by his father and adds a soft, experimental edge, represented here by the lo-fi gunshot samples, dissonant wails and defiant lack of a chorus. It's a song that spends a lot of time going nowhere and luxuriates in doing so. It's quite delightful. The title track rumbles into life after the relative quiet of Ocean Emmanuelle like a displaced Tom Waits cut from the late 80's infused with more than a hint of Marc Bolan swagger. The instrumentation here is loose and warm, a description that could also quite accurately be used, to surmise the following 'Snug As Fuck'. It's from this point that the album takes a more arresting turn, though, as the snappy electronic pop of 'Helena Bonham Carter' leads us into a brace of more ambitious numbers. There's a deft balance between odd, electronic backed experiments ('Dreary Drop' for example, which is like the Flaming Lips and the Beta Band having gentle sex) and bonkers, kitchen sink stompers (the aptly named '4 Track Stomper' for example, which genuinely sounds like it was actually recorded on a 4 track), but the former can veer into suffocating territory at times. The closing 'Wrestle With Dad' is a bit of a misfire on an otherwise wonderful album and feels like a track where Finn started with the sound effects and worked backwards to find the song. Much better are the balls to the wall pop songs which Francis should consider his stock-in-trade. 'Burn Up The Road' is wonderful, like Springsteen with a fuzz factory. Imagine a great Arcade Fire song, then subtract the bluster and the ability to make the line “I don't believe in heaven” sound like less of an admission of defeat and more of a triumphant rallying cry. It's the best thing here and will almost certainly be making a name for itself in the playlist at my next BBQ. The snarky 'Wild Animal' and the epic 'Miracle Glance' are almost as good, the former even featuring a melody that Liam's father probably wouldn't have snuffed at in his hey day. The Nihilist is a confident album that sets Finn apart from his father's shadow and establishes him as one of the most interesting young musicians working in indie rock. There are more than a few rough edges here, but without them it wouldn't be half as much fun.