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Within myself, there are a million things spilling over

A sweet little symphony of harmonious chord shifts swirling around a sinuous, rolling lead guitar line, Recurring Dream showcases Neil Finn’s expert grasp of tight, disciplined, melodic pop songwriting. For decades now, whether on his own, with his brother Tim, or fronting the bands Split Enz and Crowded House, Finn has regularly supplied discerning listeners with many of the greatest musical pleasures of the post-Beatles era, enjoying significant yet entirely insufficient commercial success along the way. In pessimistic moments it’s easy to imagine that Neil’s compositional style has gone out of fashion, with all the chart action these days going to rhythmic shouting, tuneless moaning, and formulaic dance tunes sounding like they were written by algorithms. Yet surely there’ll always be an audience for the genuine article, for songs which, however different they may seem on the surface, share DNA with a long line of compact masterpieces stretching back decades, through Lennon-McCartney, Bacharach, Wilson, Holland-Dozier-Holland, Goffin-King, and the rest of the pantheon all the way through to Rodgers, Gershwin, Porter, and Berlin.

Great songs, whatever the style, share a common set of virtues; there’s a sort of master tunesmith’s toolkit of chords, keys, rhythms and melodies that all the greats employ, discernible whether you’re listening to God Only Knows or My Funny Valentine, Here There and Everywhere or Someone To Watch Over Me. It’s there in Wouldn’t it be Nice just as surely as in Night and Day. I wish I had the background and the training to properly explain it, and I suppose, given my rank ignorance of music theory, it’s possible that I’m full of old rope, yet I swear I can hear it, there’s a difference to really fine songs that’s as plain as the distinction between stilted prose and beautiful writing, even if I can no more account for it than I can tell you why, exactly, There once was a man from Nantucket / who kept all his cash in a bucket just isn’t the same thing as I should have been a pair of ragged claws / scuttling across the floors of silent seas. Some songs, most really, belong in the Dirty Limericks League, while a few, hardly any in the scheme of things, are more like Prufrock. Have a listen not just to Recurring Dream, but Fall At Your Feet, You Better Be Home Soon, Angel’s Heap, Don’t Dream It’s Over, She Will Have Her Way, or Twice if You’re Lucky, just to suggest a sampling, and see if you agree that Neil’s best stand among the few.

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