The coolest thing about 7 Worlds Collide’s The Sun Came Out is also its biggest flaw: Namely, that “group” founder Neil Finn brought the whole damn thing together — all two discs and 24 tracks’ worth — in a scant three weeks.
7 Worlds Collide, as the Finn fanatics among you will remember, was the name Finn gave the stupidly awesome live album he released in 2002 — a name derived from the fact that he was joined for its performances by his brother Tim, erstwhile Smith Johnny Marr, Lisa Germano, Radiohead’s Phil Selway and Ed O’Brien, and Eddie Vedder. (And yet it wasn’t a huge hit. Go figure.) Seven years and one Crowded House reunion later, Finn has decided to revive the 7 Worlds banner for something even cooler than a star-studded live compilation: A star-studded charity compilation, assembled to support Oxfam.
For the occasion, Finn re-enlisted his old friends Johnny Marr, Phil Selway, Ed O’Brien, and Lisa Germano, as well as a multitude of Finns (including Tim, Sharon, Elroy, and his son Liam) — and then went further, recruiting Jeff Tweedy, K.T. Tunstall, Bic Runga, Glenn Richards, John Stirratt, Pat Sansone, Don McGlashan, and Sebastian Steinberg to take their own turns in front of the microphone. This sprawling collective (which was actually even bigger — I only named the vocalists) holed up Auckland for a few weeks and emerged with The Sun Came Out.
Unlike the first 7 Worlds Collide, this collection isn’t a Neil Finn album; he co-wrote four songs here, contributes vocals to five, and performs all over the place, but it’s a deeply collaborative affair. Given that — and the project’s abbreviated timeline — it’s a surprisingly cohesive affair; you don’t feel anyone pushing or pulling apart from the pack, and the whole thing sounds like the work of a real band that’s been together for awhile. Unfortunately, that band lacks a real leader; for the most part, The Sun Came Out just sort of sleepily ambles along with a fuzzy smile on its face, humming a kinda-sorta memorable tune. Aesthetically speaking, it isn’t all that far removed from Finn’s One Nil — it’s deeply pleasant, but it’s also sort of shapeless, and the more you push against it looking for something to latch onto, the more it drifts away. It’s the kind of album you can leave on repeat for hours and not get tired of it…or really notice it’s on.
Which brings us back to the beginning, and the project’s inherent duality: Everything that makes it such a cool story — and will, God willing, help earn Oxfam a nice big pile of money — is everything that keeps The Sun Came Out from being a terrific album in its own right. These are good songs, and if you’re a fan of any of these artists, you’re going to want to own them — and the fact that he set it all in motion is just one more thing that makes Neil Finn such a classy and talented guy. At 24 tracks for $14, the album is a great value in support of a wonderful cause, and all things being equal, it’s a good deal more entertaining than most of the other charity compilations that come out. I’m not sure how often it’ll draw you back in, or how many times you’ll catch yourself thinking, “Gee, I could really go for some The Sun Came Out right now,” but all the same, it’s hard not to want this, isn’t it? Go ahead and pick it up. You’ll feel good about it.
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