I donít know about you but Iíve always felt that Neil Finnís post-Crowded House output was a little lackslustre. The two albums with brother Tim and the two solo albums all seemed to be a bit flat with less than a handful of memorable tracks between them. Time On Earth was apparently supposed to be his third solo album, but in the wake of Paul Hesterís death he got back together with Nick Seymour and a Crowded House reunion developed and so this album comes along as the bandís fifth studio album.
I was reading somewhere recently that itís the usual practice when assembling the running order of an album to put the stronger tracks up-front and the weaker ones at the end. The theory being that the punter wants to be able to put the album on and hear the hits and will probably then take the album off before getting to the filler. This new Crowded House album seems to take that theory and turn it on its head. Not that the up-front tracks are weak (the first single, Don't Stop Now, co-written with Johnny Marr no less, is the second track) but the songs just seem to get stronger and stronger (or at least maintain a consistent level of strength) as the album progresses. And theyíre not flat.
I also remember an interview with Neil Finn a few years ago where he expressed his amazed that the interviewer had, rightly, gathered that the ďtry to catch the deluge in a paper cupĒ line from Donít Dream Itís Over was a reference to the ďwords are flying out like endless rain into a paper cupĒ line from The Beatlesí Across The Universe. I mention this because the acoustic guitar at the beginning of the first track, Nobody Wants To, makes me think of something off the White Album. Not that the song, as it develops, is particularly Beatlesque. But it is quite a beautiful ballad. Given that this album comes to us in the wake of Paul Hesterís depression-led suicide (the cover shows a blue dragon devouring a man - apparently Nick Seymourís symbolic representation of Paulís struggle with depression), itís tempting to start reading inferences into the lyrics of many of the songs and the first one sounds as though it is perhaps expressing some guilt that Neil may be feeling in relation to not having been able to help Paul.
Don't Stop Now the aforementioned single, co-written with Johnny Marr, sounds for all the world like Rumours-era Fleetwood Mac from the off. With two of the worldís greatest tunesmiths at the helm this one is as catchy as all hell and will surely end up as one of those singalong Crowded House anthems that the live audiences will love.
She Called Up is catchier still, and actually quite Beatlesque. Lovely light pop and an instant toe-tapper. I love the little electric piano trills here and there and the ďla-la la-la la-la la-la laĒ backing vocals are just irresistible.
Say That Again - Neil Finnís knack for attaching a clever lyric to a catchy tune is, I suppose, a gift. This one promotes individualism - be your own man, make your own rules. The production is a bit iffy in places, but the song is nice enough.
Pour Le Monde - The first time I heard this I assumed that the lyric was about Paul Hester. Or maybe itís about the reaction to his death. Either way this one is a beauty, with a classic chorus.
Even A Child is the other track on the album thatís co-written with Johnny Marr and after two quieter tracks it bursts forth with loads of jangly guitar and an almost falsetto delivery on the incredibly catchy chorus. Nice.
Heaven That I'm Making - I love Mark Hartís keyboards on this one. Heís using some instrument (Iím not sure what) that is a big favourite of Stevie Wonder - the thing that produces that rumbling, growling sound behind something like Superstition. Sounds great here.
Silent House was co-written with The Dixie Chicks and appears on one of their albums, apparently. Obviously I havenít heard it, but Iíd be interested to do so as this is lovely. In assuming that the DCís version is countrified, Iím assuming that this is different with some lovely fuzzy guitar.
English Trees - Incredibly Beatlesque, or perhaps that should be McCartneyesque, since Neil Finnís songs often resemble Maccaís (though see Transit Lounge). Beautiful.
Walked Her Way Down - Highlight of the album for me. Should be the next single. Beautiful song, classic Crowded House.
Transit Lounge - Mysteriously starts off with a German, or possibly Dutch airport announcement, and then goes into an interesting song about making up after a fight and various ruminations on fame. Features backing vocals by Beth Rowley and occasionally manages to sound like John Lennon doing reggae. Itís bit confused this one, with the tune and the production being all over the place. I donít know exactly what it is that they were aiming for here, but what they ended up with is very strange.
You Are The One To Make Me Cry - Neil Finnís voice reminds me of Prefab Sproutís Paddy McAloon on this one. Lots of strings make this sound like an old standard being crooned byÖ.a crooner. I can see this one being covered. A lot. Itís lovely.
A Sigh - short, quiet ballad. Very pretty.
People Are Like Suns - typical Neil Finn ballad (which is a good thing), with typical Neil Finn irresistibly catchy chorus. Elegant closer.
I donít know what it is about Neil Finn getting together with his old mates, but even with one of them sadly absent, it seems to improve things. Time On Earth is by no means lacklustre and is a suitable return to form for Finn to bring back Crowded House. Nice one.
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