It turns out Crowded House had a career beyond their mega hits “Don’t Dream It’s Over” and “Something So Strong” from their 1986 self-titled album. In fact, it turns out there are like mega-fans of band-leader Neil Finn, whose credits also include band-I’ve-heard-of Split Enz.I’m gathering that Neil Finn is a bit like David Byrne in that he’s one of those musicians that musicians love and has a select but devoted following.
Crowded House was even putting out albums in the heart of grunge times, this one coming out in 1993, but you’ll see no reflection of those times in this music. This is still pretty straightforward pop rock with pretty vocals whose lyrics you can understand. It’s a clean sound, but with some additional effects brought in beyond the more strummy guitar sound I was familiar with from 1986.
It’s also similar to a David Byrne or Peter Gabriel type of thing where where it’s accessible songs, but a little more complex than standard radio fare, uses some modern electronics, and ends up being cold, stilted, and off-putting. Just a bit more cerebral than it needs to be. It lacks the raw energy, passion, and soul that I’m more attracted to. You can tell it’s pretty good, even though it just doesn’t grab you. Even when they use a Maori choir in the closing title track, it’s a bit removed, a bit too Graceland, failing to capture the raw power and emotion that I usually associate with indigenous music (but maybe this is more reflective of a potentially offensive cultural bias I have that indigenous means “raw”).
“Nails In My Feet,” which is maybe my fave song on this album, is a perfect counterexample of this. For the first 1:45 or so they’re stuck in their typical restrained mode, but then when the bridge pops in there’s a lovely build, an intensification of the rhythm, a key change, and even people in the lyrics “screaming surprise,” making for a lovely dramatic echoing of the music.
As a big fan of Rick Springfield and Faith No More, I’m always sympathetic to artists like this, where their popular legacy is based in one or more early songs but who have gone on to have a much richer career than most people are aware of. And I kinda dig most of this: I mean five Likes is nothing to sneeze at and everything else is Meh. So I feel like I get it. It just leaves me cold, so this ends up being about as close as I can get to liking an album without being able to say I actually like it.
Like: “Nails In My Feet,” “Black And White Boy,” “Locked Out,” “Walking On The Spot,” “Catherine Wheels”
Meh: “Kare Kare,” “In My Command,” “Fingers Of Love,” “Pineapple Head,” “Private Universe,” “Distant Sun,” “Skin Feeling,” “Together Alone”
Song Notes: After the jump
- Kare Kare –
- In My Command –
- Nails In My Feet –
- Black And White Boy –
- Fingers Of Love – “Fingers of love go down” << doesn’t this have to be about manual stimulation?
- Pineapple Head –
- Locked Out –
- Private Universe –
- Walking On The Spot – Is this about divorce and/or infidelity? “dishes are unwashed and broken/all you do is cry” “Can we look the milkman in the eye?”
- Distant Sun –
- Catherine Wheels –
- Skin Feeling – beginning spesh reminds of Peter Gabriel. it’s a cold electronic kind of thing
- Together Alone – Maori choir, but it’s too sustained. It’s cool but too much