The Pajama Club + Glass Towers @ The Zoo, 12.06.2011

Straight from Unconvention to the Joynt for a few post conference drinks and straight from the Joynt to The Zoo for The Pajama Club’s, Neil Finn’s new band, second ever gig, having played in Byron on the Saturday night. I’ve been a huge Neil Finn for a long while. Although I don’t think it was a hit in the UK. I can remember listening to the old Sunday night request show back in the day on Radio 1 (Annie Nightingale I think) and first hearing Don’t Dream It’s Over, a song that seemed to get repeat plays on the show despite it never troubling the daytime playlists.  It wasn’t until Weather With You that they broke in the UK, although bizarrely it was the third single from the album, having been preceded by Chocolate Cake and Fall At Your Feet.

Despite what any of the polls might say, the best album by a street is Together Alone, their fourth (and the second best is Temple of The Low Men, their second album; Woodface and the eponymous debut come well below the other two). I don’t think Together Alone gets anywhere near the praise it deserves in Australia because it highlights that they’re so not an Australian band. Recorded at Neil Finn’s home studio and starting with the song Kare Kare, with the tribal drumming in Private Universe and the title track, it’s a New Zealand album and was mostly recorded there. It’s something Australian’s can’t claim as their own so it’s sadly ignored and overlooked.  The whole Crowded-House-as-an-Australian-band uses exactly the same argument and rationale as it would in stating that the Jimi Hendrix Experience were an English band; they might have had an American guitarist but having formed in London with an English drummer and an English bassist, they must be an English band according to the way that the Australia co-opts New Zealand culture. And if they are an English band then Are You Experienced?, Axis Bold As Love and Electric Ladyland must be added to the canon of great British albums. Right? I would obviously welcome anyone who wants to take it on having them repatriated as a British band; Electric Ladyland would make a lovely addition to some of those 100 Best British album lists.

Even though the band split up in the mid-1990s, I kept up with Neil Finn’s post-Crowded House albums. The Finn album he did with brother Tim Finn was very patchy but his first solo album proper, Try Whistling This is a fantastic album, and probably deserves to be talked about in the same way as the original Crowded House albums. The second one, One Nil, was nowhere near as good though. However, he made up for that disappointment with the Finn Brother’s album in 2005. There was no real need to reform Crowded House though, especially given drummer Paul Hester’s death in 2005. I eventually got the reformed band’s Time On Earth but would be surprised if I’d even listen to it more than two or three times; it’s bloated and each song goes on for at least two or three minutes more than they need to. I didn’t bother getting the follow up, Intriguer, although I did finally get to see the band at last year’s BluesFest and the new songs sounded good.

After that it seems strange to start a new musically project like The Pajama Club, although the main reason was to bring to life something musical he was doing purely for fun with his wife at his home studio after hours, hence the name of the band. I did read a few reviews of the show in the week afterwards and was really surprised to see them reference the early Crowded House albums in their assessments and description of what the band sounded like. However, The Pajama Club sound nothing like early Crowded House, other than the fact that Neil Finn is singing. It’s a lot looser and unstructured than the absolutely perfect three minute pop of Crowded House, more psychedelic and more drone-y. There’s also something of Talking Heads in there too, the pulsating simple bass lines giving a hint of post-punk funk. (The first song released by the band From A Friend To A Friend gives a good idea of what they sound like [there’s also a couple of songs on The Word’s podcast from 25 July 2011]. It all sounds good live but annoyingly I only get to see a small part of the show, only 30 minutes of it. Once again it’s a Sunday night and having learnt the Beenleigh line train timetable the hard way the week before when trying to get home after the OFWGKTA show, the last train back to the ‘burbs, a whole 9km from the CBD leaves the Valley at 10:30pm on Sunday nights. Bearing in mind that there’s a walk to the train station I end up leaving just after 10:15pm for a show that only started at 9:45pm. Reading the reviews later in the week it sounds like the show got better as it went on and I managed to leave at the wrong time, so missing an airing for Finn’s Suffer Never as well as a cover of Are Friends Electric?. I would have been nice to have seen how it compares to the Gary Numan version that he’s played at his last couple of Brisbane shows and which I just don’t really like. At the start of the evening, Neil Finn comments that he doesn’t think he’s played The Zoo before. Their album is out in a month or two but my guess is that if they tour again to support it, they won’t be playing somewhere as small as The Zoo again the next time that they come to Brisbane.

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