March Through Time: Crowded House

This month, I’m hitting pause on coverage of new artists and releases, focusing instead for a bit on the bodies of work from some of my favorite artists. — bk

One of the most popular bands in the world somehow missed catching on in the United states. The failure of Crowded House to become as big here as, say, Radiohead or The Police will remain one of life’s great mysteries. One cannot go wrong with any of their albums, but some are more perfect than others. Here’s my take.

  • Crowded House (1986) – An auspicious debut. Some found the production a bit thin; I did not, and simply love this record. Neil Finn was brilliant in Split Enz, and his trio (plus Enz keyboardist Eddie Rayner) made a classic.

  • Temple of Low Men (1988) – Stunningly, Crowded House’s second album is even better than its first. Moody and difficult, the songs are better, the production is better, and everything is more emotionally visceral. This album is among my personal Top Ten.

  • Woodface (1991) – A very different record, thanks in large part to the participation of brother Tim Finn. A happier-feeling collection, for unknown reasons it didn’t do well in the U.S. But it carries on with Crowded House’s unbroken string of classic records.

  • Together Alone (1993) – Harder-edged and moodier again; Tim is gone, replaced by Mark Hart. Some of the lovely melodic approach seems to be set aside in favor of a more rocking character. It’s a dense record. Perhaps not a classic but well worth owning.

  • Time on Earth (2007) – After years without Crowded House, fans welcomed them back with this one. Paul Hester had left the Earth, and his shadow hangs over this record. But it’s beautiful in its own ways.

  • Intriguer (2010) – by this late in the game, the die had long since been cast: near-universal critical acclaim, commercial under-performance (except in Australia).

  • Dreamers Are Waiting (2021) – One could consider this the Neil Finn Family Band, as it features sons Liam and Elroy as full members and sometime co-writers. Stalwart bassist Nick Seymour is still on board, and Mitch Froom returns, this time as a band member. All those ingredients – and Neil’s insistence on not repeating himself – mean that the band’s first studio album in more than a decade (and second in 28 years!) doesn’t always sound like the Crowdies of old. But it’s still head and shoulders above what most others are doing. And it beats the hell out of Neil’s other band, Fleetwood Mac.

I’ll cover Split Enz in a separate entry.