The poet Ezra Pound once said that the great thing about hitting middle age is learning that you've been right all along. If that's the case, the Finn Brothers must be feeling pretty good about themselves right now.
Neil (46) and Tim (52) Finn have been making lovelorn pop-rock since they were kids growing up in the small New Zealand town of Te Awamutu. The pair had early success with Split Enz, the twerpy-cool new wave act that helped set the stage for the even twerpier likes of Fountains of Wayne with such certified skinny-tie classics as "I Got You" and "History Never Repeats."
Crowded House came next, with the younger Finn hitting his unlikely stride as a blue-eyed soul dude. Such '80s-era mix-tape standards as "Something So Strong" and "Don't Dream It's Over" -- genuine make-out party bookends both -- surely caught the attention of Irish indie rockers the Frames, who seem to have mainlined Neil Finn's knack for pithy pop hooks and effortlessly fetching melodies.
Still, gratifying though it must be, becoming an influence cuts both ways.
On some level, after all, it just confirms the not-so-great thing about middle age: You're getting old.
Good thing then that the Finn Brothers show no signs of settling into Viagra-hood dotage. On "Everyone Is Here," their latest joint effort, the two uncork a bevy of beauties on a disc that largely pays tribute to their elders, the Beatles. Take "Nothing Wrong With You," which latches a bittersweet verse section onto a gorgeous chorus that sounds torn from the fabulous ones' songbook. "Luckiest Man Alive" finds Tim playing John to his little brother's Paul, belting out an all-you-need-is-love lyric in a Lennonesque warble while Neil provides rough-and-ready harmonies.
The pair work a similar kind of Merseybeat magic on "Anything Can Happen," a shimmery and frenetically strummed stomper that conjures both "Rubber Soul" and Paul McCartney's collaborations with Elvis Costello back in the late '80s.
That said, the disc is much more than just a pleasant stroll down Penny Lane. The album's strongest tunes feature the Finns at their most idiosyncratic, sublimating the sibling rivalry that has sometimes pockmarked their careers into sweetly soulful hymns to the pleasures of brotherly love.
"Disembodied Voices," for instance, is the album's mandolin-bedecked best bet. Custom-built for singing at the Finn family reunion, the track snags its title from a memory of "talking with my brother when the lights went out / Down the hallway 40 years ago" while waiting for sleep to kick in. "What became much harder was so easy then," the duo sing in close harmony. "Open up and letting go."
Sentimental? Well, sure. And when on the feisty anthem "Won't Give In" the Finns intone in unison that "everyone I love is here," you can bet there wasn't a dry eye in the studio control room.
But if you can't give your bro a big bear hug by the time you hit middle age, maybe you weren't right about everything after all. On the evidence of "Everyone Is Here," that's not a problem for the Finns. The disc finds these brothers happily well-adjusted and as tuneful as ever.