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Album Review: Liam Finn – The Nihilist

3 min read

Being born into musical heritage – with Liam’s Dad being a former member of Crowded House and Split Enz – could have made it hard for the singer/songwriter to develop his own style. Like many artists with famous parents before him, they always have this burden sitting firmly on their shoulder. Liam has made the breakaway look easy however, creating his own manic style that really comes into its own with new album The Nihilist, and seemingly having fun throwing in as many instruments and sounds as he can.

LiamFinn-TheNihilistIt’s obvious from album opener Ocean Emmanuelle that Liam’s about originality and not afraid to try something new.  Featuring a looping bass line with dreamy vocals, the track is actually one of the more normal sounding efforts on the record, and therefore apt to have at the start, kind of like an appetizer for the craziness that ensues.  The Flaming Lips are an obvious influence here, and the hip-drums help create another layer to the track.

All of the sudden you’re then thrown into the depths of Finns mind, full of ideas and insecurities with album titled track, The Nihilist.  It’s difficult to first of all find the tune and make sense of what’s going on, but once you do Liam will have you trapped and wanting more.  The number of sounds going on may seem unbearable to some, but to others this is a sense of achievement – managing to amalgamate them all together into a piece of listenable music would be no easy task.

Snug As Fuck has an essence of Bowie, with Finn seemingly scanning your brain as the instruments buzz around your head from ear to ear – a great build up that turns into an album highlight.  Burn up the Road treats us to some fast-paced fury, throwing you back into the record at full pace, with the good work unfortunately being undone by the slow and confusing follow up track Dreary Droop – a slow burner that doesn’t really go anywhere.

And that’s the problem with some of the tracks on this record, they can be a little too mixed up.  There are flickers of genius throughout, like 4 track Stomper’s use of white noise in the intro, but these moments are also accompanied by use of nonsensical sounds that sometimes feel like they were just thrown in there to be different rather than improving the song.  Don’t get me wrong, its clever stuff that Liam does here, but sometimes he can get lost in his own sea of noise.

The Nihilist is an album of ideas and challenges.  The New Zealand singer manages to overcome most of these with great use and knowledge of sound, and he should be praised for attempting to create something both complicated and unique.  His next step is going to be interesting, because if he gets it right and manages to combine his love of the experimental with a genuinely settled mind, there will be no stopping him.