Liam Finn – I’ll Be Lightning

Liam Finn
I’ll Be Lightning

Singer-songwriter, Liam Finn has a bright career in front of him. The New Zealand musician and eldest son of Neil Finn (of Split Enz and more significantly, Crowded House fame) has already been making music for a while and possesses his dad’s knack for great melodies. Another prominent feature is that Finn, only 24-years young, played most of the instruments on his debut album, I’ll Be Lightning, all on his own.

The pressure is on because the elder Finn is able to write excellent pop songs as simply and effortlessly as it takes some people to tie their shoes. But from the start of “Better to Be” it’s just as effortless to realize that the younger Finn has received his dad’s talents just fine. The song bristles with a live feel and Finn’s thriving singing. And since Finn used analog equipment for recording, it gives the album more of an animated feel and the impression of a demo recording.

Although the familial connections are evident, Finn is still his own man. He is influenced by The Beatles and more obviously, the late great, Elliott Smith where his presence is felt on everything on this album from the way Finn layers his voice to Finn’s poignant and bitter lyrics. On “Fire in Your Belly” complete with its John Lennon influence and spectral vocal harmonies, Finn sings, “And on my own, I try so hard just to be content, got no regrets except that I wish you were here with me.” This is certainly territory that any person who has suffered heartbreak can relate to.

It’s songs like “This Place is Killing Me,” which sounds like it could fit directly on Smith’s From a Basement on the Hill that aid in making this a memorable release. It drives with intense, tribal-like drumming, Finn’s boisterous vocals, all with sparse instrumentation.

And the album grasps everything to make it a winner for anyone, it has the great rock single, “Lead Balloon,” the sweet and wispy ballad in “Lullaby” and the piano-driven, somber closer in “Shadow of Your Man.” And although the brokenhearted theme is something that is felt all over the album, this isn’t a depressing album but rather an engrossing listen. Finn has been able balance his lyrical content with deep and focused melodies that are truly a gift. It’s rare for a young artist like this to have such control and power over his own skills.

The arrangements on here are tremendous because Finn gives everything a shine and shimmer that is so appealing. The details like the harp-like touches on “Second Chance” before the song rips into a dancy, pounding rocker or the 60s-style guitar line on “Music Moves My Feet” are all fine details that are revealed with repeated listens—just another gift found on this excellent debut.

Whatever it is that Finn has done in his lifetime to create such a compelling album is wondrous; he has taken the natural gifts from his father and paired them with his own musical capability. The similarities are apparent everywhere but the subtle differences and Finn’s masterful ability are what make this an excellent debut in more ways than one.