The time between my sophomore and junior years in college was a uncertain time. I was busy trying to figure out how to pay for school and quite frankly my next meal. My priorities being as warped as they were, dictated that I would sometimes buy music before food. I often used some of the money I intended to give to Kroger to one of the many smelly used record stores in the High Street/Ohio State university area of Columbus. On one of those trips, I happily picked up a cutout of Tim Finn’s Escapade. for about what a loaf of bread would have cost. By then it was hardly two years old.
Tim Finn was part of the songwriting core of one of my favorite bands of the first half of the ’80s: New Zealand’s Split Enz. Left field pop music has always held a special place on my playlist. No one did it quite like the bands from Down Under. When their pop sensibilities were spot on, they sounded more like the other former colony (America) than the English as in the case of INXS. But when they were aiming squarely for the mainstream, odd blends of jazz, ska and rock (all styles from places outside of Australia) would often be the result. Tim Finn’s first solo project outside of Split Enz was one of those odd but pleasant sounding experiments.
While I would not consider Split Enz pop, Finn’s solo effort was as close to a true pop album as any member would get, that is before Crowded House would come along much later and make real post Enz pop. Escapade came during the height of Split Enz international rise in popularity. Finn’s music was the kind of pleasant non offensive pop record that Split Enz might have made had they been stripped of their quirky melodies and humorous irony. I always fancied him (Finn) as a warmer weather version of Lloyd Cole.
Finn had originally written some of the material for Split Enz, but after deciding it was not an ideal fit, he released the songs while taking a break from his home band. Musically, its relaxed in its approach was the result of Finn recruiting non Split Enz members as his studio and backup band.
The freedom from typical Split Enz arrangements were reflected in an expanded musical palate for Finn. The joyous and somewhat funky “I Only Want To Know” would never made it as a Split Enz song, but on Escapade it was a natural fit.
Finn’s solo work allowed the public who were clamoring for new material from Split Enz, to hear what possibly could have been an alternate version of the band. Finn did have some success. “Fraction Too Much Friction” and “Staring at the Embers” were hits in Australia while in America the album got some notoriety thanks to “Made My Day” and the non single “Growing Pains” from the soundtrack for the 1984 film 16 Candles.
Tim Finn was beginning to get some airplay on VH-1, but before he could really breakout, Split Enz would make it’s biggest dent in America with “Message to My Girl” the following year before just falling off the map.
Crowded House was no constellation for those who missed the odd charm of Split Enz. Of course, Tim Finn himself released other solo albums, but each one after Escapade seemed to have a diminished impact outside New Zealand and Australia.