Finn’s Motel mastermind/auteur Joe Thebeau gifted us in late 2006 with the amazing, out-of-nowhere Escape Velocity debut, a concept album about leaving behind the drudgery of cubicle life and suburban malaise for some greater, unknown existence. Even with the help (cough) of a January 2007 MAGNET profile, it took Thebeau nearly 11 years to finally follow it up with the outstanding new Jupiter Rex (Victory Over Gravity). Thebeau will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new Finn’s Motel feature.
Thebeau: Neil Finn has written and sung several of the greatest songs by anyone ever: “Don’t Dream It’s Over,” “Something So Strong” and “Fall At Your Feet” just to name a few. I’d like to throw in “Better Be Home Soon” as one of the Best Songs By Anyone Ever. In a songwriter’s circle with Roddy Frame and Graham Gouldman, Finn wittily observes that “Better Be Home Soon” has a similar verse/chord progression to the Verve’s “Drugs Don’t Work” (also a good song). He then proves the point by singing a bit of the latter over the former. While the verses are somewhat similar, the big difference between these two songs is the selection of notes for the melodies of their respective choruses. Ashcroft’s casually dispensed lines in the Verve tune are cool and in keeping with the “on a losing streak” tone. But, in Finn’s chorus, when he holds the long note for “I know I’m riiiiiight,” over a C-chord that changes to a C7 underneath, then lifts to F, it’s like steel girders appear to support the resolution in the second half of the line, “for the first time in my life.”
The songwriter’s circle performance also includes Finn talking the others through playing the bridge, where he says, “tricky chords coming up … B flat …” And away they go through a McCartney-esque key change that dances a pirouette and lands on its feet back in the original key. “It’s all smooth sailing from here,” he says and indeed it is, as Frame plays one of the best pop acoustic-guitar solos I’ve ever heard. The audience agrees and applauds, as the vocal starts for the last verse. The last chorus of “Better Be Home Soon” is sort of a double, with a brilliant turn-around chord popped in between the repetitions of the last line. Sung a cappella, the calmly resolute message is delivered directly between the ears.