I saw Tim and Neil Finn open for 10,000 Maniacs way back in the hairspray eighties, before Natalie Merchant turned into a banjo-playing folk recluse. Though back then my tastes ran to the produced radioplay of Finn-led popgroup Crowded House, there was something arresting in the simple guitar interplay and close harmonies of the Brothers Finn, riding high on first big Crowded House single Don't Dream It's Over. Their songs revealed a surprising poignancy once the wall of sound came down -- one that still comes through powerfully, despite the ravages of age in their voices, on their recent Finn Brothers release, and in the newly-reincarnated Crowded House that was all the rage at Coachella this year.
Since then, I've learned that Tim's the new-waver and Neil's the pop star. Tim's solo work includes singles but no hits, which is a shame, really: he writes decent if simple melodies, and his more recent work is stark and fine, but he's spent much of his career burying it under synthesizer and make-up. The rest of the record-buying public seems to appreciate Neil's slightly softer songwriting more, if sales are an accurate indication. In my experience, though, when they write together, as they did for most of 1991 album Woodface, the end result is the best of both worlds.
Sixpence None the Richer does a sicklysweet girlpop cover of Don't Dream It's Over that you've heard a hundred times; their version is probably more true to the original recordings than anything else out there. But the best covers of Finn Brothers' work strip it down to the bare essentials. Want proof? Here's Aussie folk sensation Kasey Chambers with a version of Neil's Better Be Home Soon from 2005 Tim and Neil tribute album She Will Have Her Way that will make you cry, and another simple cover of a song co-written by Tim and Neil, just for comparison's sake:
- Kasey Chambers covers Better Be Home Soon (orig. Crowded House)
- New Buffalo covers Four Seasons in One Day (orig. Crowded House)
The above cuts plus other beautiful coverversions, all by female Australasian artists, can be yours with the purchase of She Will Have Her Way; I recommend that you buy the bonus version, which is cheaper and includes all the originals, too! Chambers' solo work is not available through her website, but amazon.com has acceptable prices. The acoustic intimacy of Finn Brothers release Everyone Is Here is gorgeous; I hear the new Crowded House album Time On Earth is good, too. Or there's always 1991 popgem Woodface, available on the cheap at your local bargain bin.
Today's bonus coversongs:
- Jennifer Kimball's lush cover of Crowded House hit Fall At Your Feet
- Neil Finn's live cover of the Smiths' There Is A Light That Never Goes Out
- Kasey Chambers's amazing cover of Fred Eaglesmith's Freight Train
Extra special bonus:
- Richard and Teddy Thompson recover* Persuasion (orig. Thompson/Finn)
*Originally, Persuasion was a Richard Thompson instrumental theme written in 1991 for the movie Sweet Talker; Tim Finn liked it so much that he added lyrics and re-recorded it. Richard and Teddy cut this version with Finn's lyrics in 2000. Technically, that doesn't make it a cover, but I think it qualifies as a "re-cover", so I'm going to let it stand.