Ornate, drippy and disappointing
Crowded House’s Neil Finn is back with a new solo album, his third and first since 2001, but “Dizzy Heights” may represent a career nadir for both Finn and co-producer David Fridmann. Finn’s distinctive warble has been sandpapered down into something unexpectedly soulful and unfamiliar, and much of the record is cut from the same soft rock cloth as Rod Stewart’s later albums. If you’re familiar with Finn’s work with Split Enz and Crowded House, you may be profoundly disappointed in this rich, ornate, orchestrated album, oozing with drippy strings.
That said, repeated listens do reveal some rewards, but that’s just getting over the shell shock for what seems to be a blatant change in direction for Finn. Maybe it’s just a sign of an auteur getting older, but “Dizzy Heights” seems to indicate a decline in the tuneful, off-kilter melodies that Finn is best known for.
The album’s biggest flaw is that Finn is clearly futzing things up and trying to be more of an experimental songwriter. He’s better off being more direct, and unfortunately that’s a path that he chose not to take, employing the use of Fridmann to create an unsettling effect. I would have preferred that Finn give “Into Temptation” (to quote from a Crowded House song) and create something affecting and disarming, as he is wont to do. But “Dizzy Heights” seems to distance itself from that aspect of his songwriting personality to prove that he is more than just an ordinary songsmith who can write something you can dance to, which is too bad, because Finn’s greatest hits had an indelible effect on the listener.
Zachary Houle, PopMatters.com