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Album Review

by Liam Finn


Review Date
21st June, 2011
Reviewed by
Gareth Meade

Presented with a fresh canvas from which to create his second solo album, it’s surprising that Liam Finn has discarded the serpentine template of his debut and instead painted the straight line that has led him to FOMO. Where I’ll Be Lightning thrived on unpredictability and the diversity of ideas so often crammed into debut albums, FOMO has acquired some focus while losing a lot of that undiluted inspiration. The result is a collection of songs that are comfortable with getting from point A to point B, often as efficiently as possible, and sometimes hastily tacking any detritus left in their wake onto the end.

In other words, FOMO is very safe (an adjective not meant to be a criticism or a compliment) and familiar in a way that you might expect something released by another Finn to be. But that wasn’t the case with I’ll Be Lightning, which evoked the song writing of Elliott Smith and was informed by the same love of harmony that Lawrence Arabia has appropriated from The Beatles. In short, even if you weren’t a fan of the Finn dynasty, it was an album that you could still enjoy.

FOMO retains elements of those influences, and can kick into a devilishly rocking gear when it needs to, but the flip side is the radio friendly pop songs that swap out depth for clunky lyrics and saccharine hooks. Finn has said that there’s no reason to be embarrassed about writing a pop song, and it’s true that ‘Cold Feet’, ‘Chase the Seasons’ or the oddly anachronistic ‘Real Late’ aren’t embarrassing, they just align him with the likes of Anika Moa, Goldenhorse or even the latest incarnation of Crowded House. In the case of the first two, these are acts whose music seems as isolated from what is happening in the rest of the world as their geographical location would suggest. For a world weary traveller like Liam, that’s not an implication that is comfortable to imply.

In some cases FOMO uses that sense of safety to its advantage. ‘Roll of the Eye’ begins with an optimistic pop hook before eventuating in an explosion of distortion and potent drumming, something that Finn has become an expert at. Similarly, when he relaxes the hands around his throat, songs like ‘Reckless’ or the fuzzed out ‘Jump Your Bones’ are imbued with an energy that the album as a whole tends to lack.

FOMO is clearly band orientated in the way that I’ll Be Lightning wasn’t. Whereas on that album you could hear Finn assembling the songs the same way he might do alone on stage, FOMO throws more into the pot with a resulting shift in mood, rather than a reinvention. Liam is obviously much more comfortable in his abilities, but hasn’t necessarily translated that into something better as much as something different, often questionable, but generally as safe as you wouldn’t expect a Liam Finn album to be.


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