The Boyfriend of the Week

March 12, 2008 [comment on this write-up]

Is it at all creepy that way, way back in the early days of this web site, I featured Crowded House musician Neil Finn as my Boyfriend of the Week and now, 93,756 years later (give or take), I'm featuring his son, Liam Finn?

Oh wait -- scratch that question. It's not like this sort of thing doesn't go on in Hollywood all the time, right? Get over it, scandalized readers! I'm releasing my inner Demi Moore this week. Deal.

This is another one of those crushes that came on suddenly and hard, snatching the Boyfriend of the Week nomination from another candidate at the last minute with a growl and a snarl. In that way, I suppose it's not unlike Hillary Clinton, this crush. It refuses to go away, regardless of how many times I have said to it, "Dude, it's not that I don't like you, it's just that I think the other guy's WAY CUTER."

But the better I have come to know and understand Liam Finn, the less I find I can resist his hirsute charms (please note that the analogy to Hillary Clinton ended well before I threw in the word "hirsute").

It all started about two or three weeks ago, just as I was coming down with the flu, which was foiling my plans to wrap up Other Guy's write-up anyway. I was lying around on the couch shaking my fist in the air at the flu shot I spent $35 on this year (curse you, ineffective vaccination that made my arm ache for two days all for NOTHING!) when I happened to stumble across an article about a musician who had just sort of exploded onto the American scene -- Liam Finn, son of Crowded House and Split Enz frontman Neil.

I was so surprised to learn that Neil Finn even HAD a son (well, heck, it's not like we're drinking buddies), let alone a son who was a musician, that I loaded up iTunes and downloaded Liam's album "I'll Be Lightning" without even listening to a sample song first.

Never let it be said, in other words, that I won't take risks for love, my friends. Because as anybody who uses iTunes can attest to, it's just way, WAY too easy to buy music there. Any $9.99 purchase made without even sampling a preview track is a $9.99 purchase that could turn ugly and fast. It used to be that you'd hear a song on the radio or MTV (back when MTV actually played music videos, that is), try to figure out the artist and album, and then get in your car (or bus or shoes) and go look at the CD in a store. Then you'd dither over it, thinking about whether or not it was really worth digging out your wallet. Then you'd wait in line and dither some more. Then you'd get to the cash register and go through all that rigmarole. It was a long process, with plenty of room for second thoughts.

Now all it takes to spend ten bucks on a record is a moment's whim followed by the gentlest quiver of a finger over a mouse button. Get a few of those whims in a row while you've got the application running, and the next thing you know, you're getting an $80 iTunes receipt in your email inbox that's covered with all kinds of embarrassing crap.

And while I'm talking about "embarrassing crap" and iTunes, have you ever noticed that nobody ever asks you what you're listening to on your iPod UNLESS you're listening to something completely humiliating? This happens to me with alarming frequency, I must say. For example, I'll be sitting on the bus on my way to or from work and my Bus Friend will sit down next to me. If I'm listening to something cool, there will be no conversation about music whatsoever. However, if it's the ONE DAY out of the past 365 that I was feeling all nostalgic and put on an album I haven't listened to since I was 15, that will be the day my Bus Friend will turn to me and say:

Bus Friend: Hey, listenin' to anything good today?

Me: [thinks to self: GAH! Lie!] Uh, yeah. It's, uh, the, uh, The Melvins!

BF: The Melvins? Never heard of them -- are they good?

Me: Oh yeah, they're awesome. Raucous and loud -- punk, you know?

BF: Oh cool! Can I listen for a sec?

Me: [thinks to self: CURSES! and hands over headphones with a cringe]

BF: [puts headphones up to ears and listens for a moment, then tips head and smirks] Dude, that's weird. This Melvins album sure sounds rather a lot like PHIL COLLINS' GREATEST HITS. . .

Oh, COME ON! Give me a break, Bus Friend! It was the one day -- ONE DAY! -- I had a Phil Collins song stuck in my head and needed a little aural gratification. It's not like I make this a habit! (Though, for the record, I love that Phil Collins song "Driving the Last Spike," and I refuse to apologize for it.)

And that's not even the worst thing I've gotten caught with on my iPod, my friends. Because once I got nabbed watching a Britney Spears video. That I actually PAID MONEY FOR. (In my defense, however, it was only because the video features a half-naked Stephen Dorff -- it was Boyfriend research, I swear to Pete!)

In any case, the good news is that Liam Finn is a pretty safe choice for all music fans. He's new, so even if you're embarrassed to admit to liking pop-indie music, nobody will know who he is anyway. But he's also, well, pop-indie music, which is pretty trendy these days. I think at worst, you'll get a, "Who?" and at best, you might get an, "Oh, I heard about that guy. . . Cool."

The album I've been listening to is called "I'll Be Lightning," and while not every song has been a hit for me (the record starts out great and then really fizzles out by the end, in my opinion), I've pretty much been listening to it every day for two straight weeks, which isn't something I tend to do with music now that I have an iPod (oh, shuffle function, I love you so!).

The first time I heard it, I was amazed at how much Liam sounded like his dad. And then I was amazed at how much he sounded like The Beatles. And then I listened some more and swore he sounded just like the lead singer from Radiohead. From Radiohead, I went to Pilate, because Pilate is essentially just Radiohead From Canada. And once I hit on the word "Pilate," I started thinking about the Bible. And whenever I think about the Bible, I automatically think about Monty Python's Life of Brian. And from there, well, let's just say things got silly fast.

Anyway, throw in a little Long Winters with a touch of some mellow Michael Penn and what you have is a fairly intriguing combination of sound.

The bad news is that there are several songs on Liam's album that I really, really cannot stand. Luckily, all it takes to make an album instantaneously five songs shorter in iTunes is the unchecking of a few boxes -- hallelujah! And before all you music geeks start fussing about how I'm not really hearing the album if I'm not listening to it the way the musician intended me to (i.e. with the songs in order, not skipping any), I have but this to say: "The Lady in My Life," Michael Jackson's Thriller.

Did anybody ever listen to that track? I think not.

In case you're wondering, the five Finn songs I have to skip through at times are "Lullaby" (which actually does put me right to sleep), the ending of "Lead Balloon" (a song I otherwise really like, until he starts screaming "Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah!" at the end, which is when I start muttering, "No no no no no no no no no!" and hit the FF button), and then the last three songs on the album which all sound the same to me -- like one giant blur of snooze.

Hey, wait, Meg -- if his album has FIVE songs you can't stand on it, then why is it you claim to looooove Liam Finn? I can answer that! First of all, it's because the rest of the songs are really good. The ones I love today, for example, include: "Better to Be," "Second Chance," "Fire in Your Belly," and "Music Moves My Feet."

And, secondly, it goes without saying (I assume) that there was really no resisting Liam Finn once I heard a theremin in the background. As I mentioned in my Boyfriend write-up on the band Awesome, there's nothing I love more than heterodyning oscillators. It's not every day you hear a theremin in a pop song, and when it happens, every ounce of my Inner Geek comes alive with glee. Major points to Liam Finn for not only knowing what a theremin IS but also learning how to play it, which requires a unique and often elusive combination of shake charming skills and perfect pitch.

Finn himself is essentially a one-man band, too, recording most of the instrument tracks himself and then layering them on top of each other for the final product (in analog, no less -- very lo-fi; or wait, let's call it "retro-fi" for more geek-chic). I caught his recent performance on David Letterman (end of February), and actually laughed out loud when he chucked his guitar aside in the final piece of "Second Chance" so he could go rock out on the drums. (Wanna see? Click here!) All Liam really needs to endear me to him for life at this point is to walk out on stage at one of his shows wearing one of these get-ups, frankly. Liam, if you can get the rest of it, I can loan you the accordion. My numbah -- it's in the book.

Quick biography: Liam Finn was born on September 24, 1983 (argh! I am old!) in Melbourne, Australia, but grew up in New Zealand and, I'm sure, considers himself a Kiwi all the way. He's the eldest son of Neil Finn, who remains a God to me, by the way, and before he went solo, he used to front the band Betchadupa. Betchadupa's first song ever was written when Liam and his pal Matt Eccles were both 11 years old, and it was called "Gee This Sounds Good, I Can't Believe We Wrote It."

Oh, to have been pals with the likes of them at 11. I think we would've gotten along very well.

I couldn't quickly find out if Betchadupa is still together or has disintegrated due to Liam's solo endeavors, but Liam seems to be getting pretty good buzz, including being named as an "Artist to Watch" by Rolling Stone last November, and I won't be surprised if he decides to stick with himself for a little while longer.

On tour now, by the way! And stay tuned for the skipped Boyfriend of the Week write-up that was supposed to go second and then didn't. I'm hoping to get it posted within the next two weeks (to make up for the fact I got zip done in February!).

MacGyver Factor Score: 93.295%. Points off for having not one by TWO superfluous "splash" pages on his official web site.

But points back because of his striking resemblance to Sasquatch. I loves me some 'Squatchmen.

 


Boyfriend-Related Links

Liam Finn's Official Web Site
Liam's MySpace page (with music samples)
Betchudupa's MySpace page (with music samples)
Liam's music video for "Second Chance"
Doin' the One Man Band on Letterman


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