Liam Finn: FOMO

After one solo album, one EP, and one supergroup collaboration, Liam Finn just doesn't sound as surefooted as he once was.

Liam Finn


Label: Yep Roc
US Release Date: 2011-06-21
UK Release Date: 2011-06-20
Label website
Artist website

I'd love to tell you that Liam Finn is a songwriter of rare intuition and that his craft completely wipes away any small, nagging doubts about nepotism. I'd also love to recommend his album FOMO to a crowd of young listeners who suddenly find themselves giving a damn about the music scene in New Zealand thanks to Flight of the Conchords and the recent Crowded House reunion. And I'd certainly love to see Liam Finn continue to be taken seriously as an artist, even though his father is quite possibly one of the great songwriters of the southern hemisphere, and that FOMO will hold up against future scrutiny when people stop and reminisce about junior’s climb to the top. But then I listened to the album. The golden moments are few and the bronze ones are many on FOMO, an album that offers much in the way of adequate, serviceable pop that stands just on the edge of "good enough" without going much further. It's almost earnest in the way it doesn't deliver, as if the whole sophomore slump thing were obligatory.

FOMO is an acronym for Fear of Missing Out. There are tiny clues leading to this eagerness, if not an overall sense of it. In the course of ten songs over 36-plus minutes, Liam Finn feels a "sense of urgency" and confesses that he's "tired of cold feet" and has "not got the patience", but looks back to observe that "time tipped over". It's all the making of coming-of-age stuff without any crux, any moment of realization. There are a few times where Finn can be pretty straightforward, but they nonetheless feel vicarious. He even says so in "Reckless" when he sings "I adore your reckless attitude", one of the more succinct melodies to be found on FOMO. The closet thing that he has to an angry side can be in a vocal-shredding performance on "The Struggle": "To bed without your supper, you suffer all your own." "Little Words" takes a sad and cynical view on the ease of modern communication, or voyeurism, or both as the song's narrator regrets losing a picture of a girl in her underwear from his computer. No big loss, because he then shakes it off by saying "you're pretty much dead to me". Oof.

What FOMO lacks in lyrical direction and/or poetic license it surprisingly struggles with to make up for in pop melodies. It's not that Finn's songwriting is bad or instantly forgettable, it's that nagging feeling that these songs did not come about through a natural songwriting process but through something more obtuse and methodical. Finn sings the title of "Don't Even Known Your Name" with much timidity, something that he's beyond considering how, if you're not paying close attention, you may mistake him for his dad. Nonetheless, it's the kind of song that aims for breezy pop but lands in somewhere more disposable. So does "Cold Feet", though Finn's singing is far more confident this time. Still, the chorus, with its four-count snare and far-reaching melody, comes across as a buildup leading to just more of the same.

Liam Finn is capable of better. We know because he has achieved better. Some days I can't get the song "Honest Face", from his Champagne in Seashells EP with Eliza-Jane Barnes, out of my mind. Yet even though Finn has earned his place in contemporary Beatlesque pop, FOMO feels regressive, almost like the work of a rookie. And it's not as if this rookie has struck out, it just sounds like he ticked off ten foul balls in a row.


In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.