Time on Earth

Wow, what did Mrs. Finn eat while her sons were in vitro? Inquiring pop music lovers want to know. Must have been sweet but also substantial, something that one can enjoy growing on. Both Neil and Tim Finn have written gloriously infectious intelligent pop ballads over the decades and this year their legacy has gained momentum. Both have released new albums, Tim as a solo artist and Neil as the lead man for the newly reformed Crowded House.

Time On Earth began it's life as a solo project for Neil Finn but as he worked with Crowded House bassist Nick Seymour the idea of resurrecting the band surfaced. Mark Hart rejoined and Matt Sherrod, Beck's former drummer, replaced the late Paul Hester who took his own life in 2005 after a grueling battle with depression.

It is Neil Finn's songwriting that drives this record. Like his brother Neil has an impeccable ear for pop hooks and sparkling melodies - you'd be hard pressed to find a better craftsman of a pop-song. But Neil has always displayed a slightly darker outlook on the world than his sibling and it's clear that this edge has been intensified by Hester's suicide. Although the music on the disc is beautiful, ethereal and occasionally exuberant there is no denying that a gentle sadness permeates most of the tracks. "English Trees" could be an epitaph for Hester as Finn professes grief and offers absolution. Other songs are open to conjecture as to what Finn is mourning. "Pour Le Monde," "Even a Child," "People Are Like Suns," and "You Are the One To Make Me Cry" could easily be about Hester or could be a middle-aged man philosophizing about his life, or maybe they're just songs about heartbreak in myriad forms. Finn's emotions are complex, intimate but less than obvious. Who said communication is easy? Not Neil Finn although he ponders this question repeatedly.

These emotions are matched by the textured, multi-layered production of the disc. The band worked with two legendary producers, Ethan Johns and Steve Lillywhite, to create a very "adult" pop sound. You'll find lots of strings, over-lapping keyboards and swirling guitar hooks. Beth Rowley's lovely backing vocals help to create an other-worldly feel on the track "Transit Lounge." If you're looking for the pure joyful sound of those classic Crowded House hits the closest you'll get is "Say That Again" and "She Called Up." Time On Earth is a serious record from a seriously great pop-writer who, not unlike the rest of us, knows there is a time and need for reflection.

Rosemary Welsch, WYEP Afternoon Mix host