THERE'S NO SHORTAGE of prodigies who've had the good fortune of emerging from the loins of music royalty—Julian and Sean, Norah Jones, Harper Simon, Jakob Dylan, to name a few. And with these powers come high expectations, spectacular letdowns, and songs like "One Headlight." Then there are the painful, inevitable questions about being the son or daughter of so-and-so.
I've asked about it on three occasions in various interviews with famous offspring, and the one that seemed most amicable to the inquiry was Liam Finn (whose pop is Split Enz/Crowded House/New Zealand royalty Neil Finn). As the younger Finn put it to me in a 2009 interview: "I don't think I've ever tried to specifically make music that's not like my father's. So if it's sounding like that, it's not like I go, 'Oh god, I better fuck this up and put some noise on it.'"
Liam is slightly weirder and far beardier than the elder Finn, but his hook-heavy ways can definitely be traced back to his father's work with new-wave popsters Split Enz. Liam's 2007 debut I'll Be Lightning is a schizophrenic, 19-song pop gem filled with nods to his dad and Julian Lennon's dad, with unexpected bursts of noise that come from his love of Sonic Youth. As with his live performances—which are wall-to-wall, hyper-energetic sets—I'll Be Lightning is essentially a one-man show. FOMO, Finn's latest LP on the Yep Roc imprint, is less sprawling than his debut, brought into focus with the help of Aussie producer and musician Burke Reid. Lead single "Cold Feet" is delicate and gorgeous, the kind of shimmering pop that never goes out of style. It's countered with album closer "Jump Your Bones," a tribal new waver that builds and explodes for nearly six minutes as Finn's vocals hover in a ghostly echo.
It's his pop smarts that have allowed Finn to push his music in different directions without getting lost. Finn has said himself that his (literal) nomadic ways—bouts on the road, trying to balance relationships and normal life stuff—have provided loads of musical fodder. Then again, you can always chalk it up to good instincts.