Liam Finn has a keen ear for melody but he tends to favour fizzy eccentricity rather than the straight-ahead sing-along path. He’ll sing in wired-eyed falsetto (The Nihilist), send in swirling guitar effects (Ocean Emmanuelle), Beatles-like organs (Snug As Fuck), and exuberant group backing vocals (Helena Bonham Carter). The Nihilist’s most exciting song is probably its most structurally conventional: the four-to-the-floor, distorted bass-driven Burn Up The Road. The five-minute, gravity-spurning outburst is summed up by the howling refrain, ‘I’m scared of myself / As I burn up the road’.
The record also includes whacked-out electronics (4 Track Stomper) and some sombre interludes (I). In fact, there’s a touch of melancholy throughout, largely stemming from the chosen chord structures. All along, Finn’s melodic effortlessness reigns supreme and the textural intricacy continues to surprise on repeated listens.
The spirit of The Nihilist doesn’t exactly echo the title’s connection to meaninglessness. However, Nietzsche’s philosophy on nihilism emphasises the need to establish a new table of values (or the “revaluation of all values”). Perhaps Finn’s record is founded in a sort of pop nihilism. It mightn’t be altogether radical, but it presents a more imaginative pop song standard.
Finn’s third solo LP is an accomplished journey through playful, baroque psychedelics.