Release Date: Sep 13, 2011
Record label: Lester Recording Catalog
Compared to the straight lines and subdued surfaces of Crowded House's 2010 album Intriguer, Neil Finn's 2011 Pajama Club is a reckless party. Not quite a side project, not a full-fledged band, Pajama Club finds Finn and crew -- including his wife Sharon, Sean Donnelly, and Alana Skyring -- taking all the detours he so stubbornly avoided on Intriguer, letting himself get lost in elastic, electronic echoes and even occasionally revving up the tempo so his throwaways resemble something like a garage-pop raver. All of which reads a little wilder than it plays.
The lacklustre band name – picked because main members Neil and Sharon Finn formed Pajama Club while lounging in their jim-jams one night – is a terrible introduction to an unexpectedly off-kilter project by the Crowded House leader and his wife. Who would have guessed the composer of all those beautiful mainstream melodies also had a lo-fi, funk-influenced streak – and the ability to turn it into a compelling album? Though Crowded Houseish harmonies slip into Dead Leg and TNT for 2, the bulk of this record is unlike anything Finn has done before. Sharon's bass and breathily intoned vocals are often the crux of a song, and sparseness and restraint always the watchwords, with even guest Johnny Marr reining himself in so his guitar sinuously entwines with the bass and synth lines on Can't Put it Down Until it Ends.
Not radical, but mostly refreshingly different Like Paul McCartney’s Fireman project, Pajama Club is the semi-modernist result of a songwriter with an exceedingly lush catalog (in this case, Neil Finn of Crowded House and Split Enz fame) having ample access to studio time and a whimsical if somewhat touristic sense that they should dabble in something like electronic music. Before you expect David Guetta, though, realize that this generally means peppering lightly underwritten pop songs with vaguely synthetic sonic elements that are almost anachronistic in how far they are from the current edge of anything conventionally associated with the genre. It’s a misdirection that would be more damning but for the fact that the songs here are generally guileless and often casually catchy.
Composed entirely of Crowded House frontman Neil Finn (who has been producing music since 1976), his wife Sharon Finn, and Sean Donnelly, Pajama Club has released some truly contemplative music on their eponymously titled debut. Their music breaks down the conventional boundaries of the modern alternative scene, and also marks a new stage in the creative development of the talented Mr. Finn.
In 1998, Neil Finn released his first solo album, Try Whistling This. The title was a reference to Finn’s reputation as a writer of unabashedly melodic songs. With Split Enz and then Crowded House, Finn was responsible for some of the most accomplished, McCartney-esque pop music of the 20th Century. But like McCartney before him, Finn had developed a complex.
In 1998, Neil Finn released his first solo album Try Whistling This, a record that bemused a few critics in its firm move away from the Crowded House template, incorporating orchestral, electronic and even slightly gothic touches under the production hand of the great Marius de Vries. Try Whistling This prompted some to pronounce that Finn had 'gone Radiohead' or even 'gone trip-hop'. But the truth is that he has had a strong streak that embraces the strange and contemporary ever since he joined Split Enz in 1977.