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“Do you want to exist
Between the lightning and the mental bliss
Or needing nothing and with no one to miss
Like a stray dog pissing on a statue.”
For a songwriter who’s mastery of songcraft has been so widely acknowledged around the world, Neil Finn’s solo records have been remarkably low-profile affairs (1998’s Try Whistling This, 2001’s One Nil). As the frontman and main songwriter of Crowded House, he’s written some of the most memorable songs to ever come out of Australia -– including certified classics like Don’t Dream It’s Over, Weather With You, Into Temptation, Four Seasons In One Day, Better Be Home Soon -– but as a solo artist, he’s never quite reached the same “dizzy heights”, neither in a creative nor in a commercial sense. Then again, it wouldn’t be fair to expect him to repeat the impressive track record that can be heard on the 2-disc compilation Recurring Dream: The Very Best Of Crowded House or critically acclaimed albums like Woodface and Together Alone. What’s more, Finn’s less accessible, flawed solo works strongly imply that he most likely made a conscious effort to distance himself from the pristine, perfect Pop music of his old band (the title of his first album Try Whistling This says it all).
Dizzy Heights, Finn’s third album and his most satisfying to date, once again displays the restless, experimental side of his songwriting, but to his credit, Finn’s high-flying ambitions haven’t clouded his vision: Dizzy Heights’ more adventurous musical excursions sound unforced and fully formed. Renowned producer Dave Fridmann (The Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev, Tame Impala) also deserves credit for his trippy production and recording skills/creative studio trickery which add another dimension to the songs whether they can be categorized as “aurally complex” –- the ‘70s R&B guitar stylings and soothing string arrangement of Impressions; the ominous Divebomber’s slow, somber pace; the low-fi, static sound effects and skittering structure of White Lies And Alibis –- or categorized as being more “conventional”: the uplifting, Paul McCartney-esque Dizzy Heights; the elegant Pop of the single Flying In The Face Of Love, the punchy Pony Ride’s driving drumbeat and thumping bass, the tastefully orchestrated Better Than TV, and the reflective Recluse, with its lovely chorus and introspective lyrics addressing modern life in a busy, stressful world and the desire to just hide from it all (“Yes, solitude is hard to find / And they’re all too busy organizing your life / But it’s people that you lose / When you become a recluse”).
Dizzy Heights is an apt title for an album heightened by soaring ambitions, celestial harmonies and lyrical references to “stars”, “transit to Venus across the sun”, “drifting up”, and “flying”; Dizzy Heights is the New Zealand singer/songwriter's most consistent, ambitious and compelling work since Crowded House’s Together Alone (1993).