The Flannelette Streets

September 12, 2011, 3:01 pm Brock Oliver Yahoo! New Zealand

The Flannelette Streets
Rating:

4/5

For fans of: The Beatles, Air, SJD

Pajama Club is Neil Finn's latest side project, teaming up with his wife Sharon on bass, sonic troubadour SJD on a myriad of instruments and Alana Skyring on drums, for a late night session of fine red wine, sonic intrigue and new adventures. Their album is out today.

The thread count of Neil Finn's contribution to the intelligentsia of pop music will drum up a knighthood one day, once he stops being Peter Pan and sprouts a great mass of grey hairs that is.

In the meantime, Neil and his wife Sharon have taken advantage of their living arrangements; no kids at home and a studio in Newton, Auckland, hooking up with the esoteric skills of Sean James Donnelly to form a fruitful left field project, aptly named Pajama Club.

The band name suggests the nocturnal hours whence the band was formed, how it evolved and by the sonic sounds of it, in the light of the moon.

With an extensive archive of pop sensibility, Neil Finn has harnessed the finesse of his own Roundhead Studios to create avant garde pop songs; a place where signature melodies are layered with beautiful drifting space junk - courtesy of SJD - slotting into place like shimmering constellations.

The linear narrative and utopian stamp of Crowded House songs is replaced with existentialist confessions, teaming up great pop hooks and deep melodies.

The result catches Pajama Club in between The Beatles in their 'Revolver' and 'White Album' days and Gallic inter-galactic tourists, Air.

There is much fun in between these references and the results are mostly sublime, taking pop songs on a space odyssey (and sometimes on a box car derby).

Kicking off with the first single 'Tell Me What You Want', Neil Finn creeps in with whispering vocals that shimmy up to another NZ great - Shayne Carter - especially his Dimmer era. 'Can’t Put It Down Until It Ends' is an epic voyage that sends a pop song into space, seemingly on a black and white TV.

'These Are Conditions' is a tougher song, pulling apart sinewy layers in a starburst of confession and lilting melody, while 'From a Friend to a Friend' navigates the road trip into "the edge of oblivion", Neil Finn happily providing a galvanized backbeat.

The album is a great fusion of the Finn's knack for everyday melody, fused with SJD's sonic adventure and ghostly echoes. 'Daylight' is a lighter moment that skips with a sense of southern boogie and signature Neil Finn vocals, while 'Go Kart' is a moment of agitpop with a lollypop pogo twitch – part box-car-derby – part riot grrl.

As the album ventures into the latter half, it happily drifts into space. 'Dead Leg' is a deadbeat statement in a cosmic squall and 'TNT for Two' is a laconic shuffle with Latino shades, Neil Finn hushed, then yelling into a barren landscape.

Finally the springs pop their sockets on 'The Game We Love To Play' and the eerie 'Diamonds in Her Eyes' takes it all back to an early '70s sound that harnesses Ziggy-era-Bowie via the cascading melodies of Neil Finn.

In all, this is an encounter of the first kind with a pop maverick, his effervescent wife and one of the unsung heroes of NZ space-pop in SJD.

The result is a great cluster of songs that shimmer and shake in isolation and fuse as an album to form a galaxy that The Jetsons would surely take a trip to. And perhaps a signal of Neil Finn venturing back through annuls of pop history, with a dash of mad-cap Split Enz updated antics.

Ray guns-a-go-go!

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