At the age of 27 Liam Finn has certainly built up an impressive musical CV. Aside from fronting the now defunct New Zealand outfit Betchadupa, he's supported the likes of Eddie Vedder, The Black Keys and has been part of Crowded House's touring band. It's no surprise then that his solo output has been infrequent. New album FOMO isn't your usual singer/songwriter fare either, with a magpie tendency at the core of its 10 songs.
Opening with a drum machine, piano and a feedback drenched guitar, it's obvious that FOMO isn't going to be a sedate record. The influence of Finn's musical heritage is obvious in his voice, which sounds akin to a younger version of his father's. Lyrically 'Neurotic World' seems a little at odds with its musical landscape, which although sprawling, lacks the 'sense of urgency' that the kiwi describes in the chorus.
Impressively Finn has played and sung every note on the record, proving his versatility while holed up in his beach cottage. The regret tinged 'Didn't Even Know Your Name' features surprisingly upbeat jangly guitar melodies and well constructed vocal harmonies. Once the drumbeat takes hold mid track it sounds as if Finn has been taking notes from Bloc Party's Kele Okereke.
The next musical curveball comes with the perfect pop of 'Cold Feet'. It's the kind of song that could have been recorded by the Beach Boys. Strange synth noises give the track an unexpected edge, but the debt it pays to Finn's musical forefathers is unmistakable. 'You know I don't need anyone, I just want to have a drink or two', it's also another example of a song with added lyrical depth. A distorted view of a relationship is presented here, with the protagonist having doubts and lacking self-conviction.
FOMO continues to veer from one musical statement to another. The blues-rock stomp (complete with distorted vocals) of 'The Struggle' gives way to the folky but incredibly bitter 'Little Words'. There's even some screaming on the catchy 'Reckless' and a rare sense of jubilation on 'Jump Your Bones'. Ultimately though it's the angst of lyrics from earlier tracks (for example 'you're pretty much dead to me.') that leaves a lasting impression.
The mismatched compositions and lyrical content also indicates how well titled the album is. FOMO (for those unaware of the obscure acronym, 'fear of missing out') is. Finn isn't necessarily comfortable in his skin. Feeling at times like an outsider he injects insecurity into many of the tracks here with lyrics such as, 'what have I caved in to?' While it's laudable to be quite so open and at times neurotic, this is also one of the problems with FOMO. The album lacks the moments of joy and innocence that a record stamped with the family name of Finn would suggest.