Thursday, 23 June 2011

Live Review: Pajama Club @ Oxford Art Factory, 13/6/11

When Neil Finn reformed Crowded House in 2007 it put a firm stop to the interesting things the 53-year-old was doing on his own. While it would be a stretch to call his solo work experimental, 2001’s One Nil, as well as his dalliances with film soundtracks and the like, saw him embracing synthesisers, reverb, effects pedals and other strange noises of the future.

The Pajama Club, where Finn is joined by his wife and erstwhile wallflower Sharon along with New Zealand ‘music personality’ Sean Donnelly and Brisbane indie jewel Alana Skyring, allow this side of him to be fully indulged. It’s been rather too long since the world saw Finn’s freak flag fly.

Playing their fourth show ever tonight, they made the promotional push of playing their forthcoming album in its entirety, a record that from tonight’s showing promises to be full of dramatic space-rock flourishes, touches of Talking Heads-style keyboard from Donnelly and a meandering ‘jam’ quality as to call to mind the work of Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks. There is even enough of a sprite within Finn on this project to take one back to 1980 and Split Enz’s suitably eccentric True Colours album.

The only song available to be heard by fans prior to the show was ‘From A Friend To A Friend’ (released online), actually far from being the strongest song in their set, that honour falling to their propulsive (and unknown) opener, Sharon maintaining a one-note bassline for its entirety while her husband brought the track to a shuddering climax on his good old red Gretsch Firebird.

That richness was heard again on ‘Diamonds In Her Eyes’, while some more familiar melancholic chord changes could be found on the comparatively sedate ‘TNT For Two’. Mention must also go to a strangely awful duet between the married couple about carnal etiquette featuring Neil on drums, and a quite spectacular mid-set medley that saw ‘Suffer Never’ (from the first Finn Brothers album) mutate into Tubeway Army’s ‘Are ‘Friends’ Electric?’ That was the only nod to Finn’s past all night, ensuring that this project has a special energy of its own.

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