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February 12, 2008

Finn-ishing touches, Communal metal, Bela Chick

Saturday, Feb. 16From his beginnings with Split Enz through work with Crowded House and a solo career, Tim Finn has always done just enough to squeak by. Releasing critically acclaimed album after critically acclaimed album, the artist somehow avoided the machinations of the record industry long enough to remain true to himself.“If you look at my whole career, you’d think that I have avoided writing a hit song. I’ve never been good at taking direction. I’ve always followed my own instincts,” he tells LEO.The New Zealander, whose upcoming show at the St. Francis of Assisi Church (1960 Bardstown Road, 456-6394) is one of just 17 North American dates, has released Imaginary Kingdom (Manhattan), an album of well-written, timeless pop music.Don’t call it “smart” or “mature.”“I just do what I do and take what comes. I have a willfully naïve attitude toward things. People talk about music or songs and say that they are ‘intelligent.’ It’s almost an oxymoron, because there should be something about music that should be visceral or have a sexual impetus. All of that has to be there in some way,” Finn says, laughing.The timeless qualities of Imaginary Kingdom are astounding. Here is an artist, 30 years into his career, making music that ranks with his best. In fact, Kingdom could have come out any time in the last 40 years and still sound fresh. Don’t expect any Timbaland-style mash-ups.“I like the idea of recurrence in music. In the Split Enz, we were very obsessed with eclecticism and making everything different every time out. But in my solo work, hopefully there’s a strong thread where things are recurring. I’m more interested in that than doing the latest thing.”A limited number of tickets are still available at ear X-tacy (1534 Bardstown Road, 452-1799).Saturday, Feb. 16For those in the metal mood, High on Fire has come to save the day and rattle your fillings.The band’s syrupy slow grooves and crunching guitars have been wowing fans all over the country, and their latest album, Death is this Communion, is an assault on the ears. It’s some of the best metal released in the last year, and music smarter than your average denim jacket-clad metal meathead.“Metal should shake that ‘dumb’ part of it,” says singer/guitarist Matt Pike. “It’s probably the most progressive scene that’s out there. It’s the most extreme level that you can take music to. There are no boundaries with metal, and that’s one of my favorite things about it.”One listen to the band’s impenetrable wall of sound and even naïve listeners hear High on Fire’s chaos is by design. Pike’s vision leads the swagger and sway of their relentless attack, and his inspiration comes from the brontosaurus plod of The Melvins.“(Melvins guitarist) King Buzzo ruined me as a child,” Pike says. “I had to play guitar louder than him.”High on Fire aren’t snobs, though: For all his talk of metal shaking its stereotypes, Pike empathizes with the plight of the average headbanger.“Most metal people like to get fucked up and act like meatheads. I like to drink, and I like to rage. That doesn’t make you smart all the time,” he says.High on Fire appear live at Uncle Pleasant’s (2126 S. Preston St., 634-4147). Tickets are $12.Monday, Feb. 18For jazz and bluegrass aficionados, there might not be a better night of music than Chick Corea and Bela Fleck’s show at the Brown Theatre (315 W. Broadway, 584-7777).This unlikely pairing of the legendary pianist (Corea) and nimble-fingered banjo virtuoso (that would be Fleck) might sound like oil and water, but the duo’s recent Concord Records album, The Enchantment, is nothing short of magical.Combining the smooth jazz of that has been Corea’s hallmark with the bluegrass-meets-jam-tinged playing of Fleck; The Enchantment is an album to behold.Not just for the jaw-dropping musicianship and artistry on display, but also the album’s more sublime moments, including a cover of the jazz standard “Brazil.”Tickets range from $38-$45. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. Contact the writer at leo@leoweekly.com