Another day, another album released by the Finn family. There’s been Tim, his nephew Liam (who in turn toured with his brother, Elroy) and now it’s time for the latter pair’s Ma and Pa – Neil and Sharon. Pajama Club are the group born from empty nest syndrome. While some people use the time after the kids leave home to go dancing, these guys stayed in and found themselves doing just that to the sweet music they had created.
For people wanting a safe, easy-on-the-ears Finn creation this is not the record for them. In fact, some diehard fans may get the feeling that this is like the Neil Finn version of Neil Young’s Trans. Though nowhere near as extreme, it is certainly more left-field and outside their comfort-zones, meaning at times it seems a lot like Sonic Youth (with their emphasis on distortion) and Beck with the foray into electronic blips and blops.
The most noteworthy thing about this release is how punk it all feels. This is not so much in the guitar-work because that is definitely more pop-like but rather in the independent release and liberating feelings of freedom, optimism and just wanting to get out and play. You see the Finns’ private racket all started when the two got creative over a bottle of red and picked up instruments (sound familiar?) But they were instruments they’re either not known for (i.e. Neil and the drums) or ones they had virtually no experience with (like Sharon and the bass). In the case of the latter, apart from guest appearing on some Crowded House material and the all-star 7 Worlds Collide project, her musical practice had basically been learning “Stairway To Heaven” on the guitar as a kid.
From the get-go the Finns sound vital as “Tell Me What You Want” combines funky, electronic distortion like Beck’s “Modern Guilt” with a sweet, feminine touch in the sultry vocals courtesy of Sharon. “Can’t Put It Down Until It Ends” meanwhile, sees the guys delivering their own whispers and moans as they flirt with different styles of delivery for the singing. Lyrically, it has been said that Neil did the bulk of the legwork, but there’s an organic feel to most of the words, one not dissimilar to The White Stripes just bashing ‘em out and singing what fits to the music and feel of the track.
Those famous Finn tonsils (and their melodic tones) are heard even on the more zany vocals on the album and are combined with all manner of twists, turns, bells and whistles. On “Golden Child” there’s actual telephone static and on “TNT For 2” some odd chanting. “The Game We Love To Play” sees a schizophrenic beat coupled with a tune you could imagine the Beastie Boys cranking out before it veers off to get rather ghostly spiritual by the very end.
“Diamonds In Her Eyes” is the bouncy pop number about a girl and the most reminiscent of Neil Finn of old. Elsewhere, with the distortion and explorations into unchartered territory (at least for them) they sound as fuzzy as the hirsute golden boys they spawned (and like the music the elder of the two creates). And let’s not forget that a friend of the family – the one and only Johnny Marr – plays guitars on “Go Kart” which sounds like equal parts Breeders rock and B-52s crazed pop. The Finns were also joined by Sean Donnelly for the recording and he is also part of the PCs touring line-up.
Pajama Club’s self-titled debut is a self-described dark, spiky and tender affair where mystery was cultivated and steps were taken to relish in the optimism of the unknown. At times it may have all seemed a little naive but in the end the album is a winner because it contains the most fresh and vital sounds to come from Finn in recent years, completely trumping the latest Crowdies efforts and creating exciting sounds all from changing tact.
Originally published on 15 September 2011 at the following website: http://www.fasterlouder.com.au/reviews/music/30019/Pajama-Club–Pajama-Club
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