Crowded House Album Reviews

Breaking up Split Enz after feeling too much pressure to fill his older brother’s shoes, Neil Finn retained drummer Paul Hester from the final Enz lineup and created a more streamlined band. They recruited Australian bass player Nick Seymour (brother of Hunters and Collector’s lead singer Mark), and secured an American record deal. Their career took off with the single ‘Don’t Dream It’s Over’ from their 1986 debut album reaching number two on the American charts. While they didn’t maintain that level of success in America, their third album Woodface, which included Tim Finn as a band member, established them as a popular band in the UK. The group split after their fourth album, 1993’s almost perfect Together Alone, but reunited for 2007’s Time on Earth, a tribute to the late Hester.

Crowded House follow a mainstream guitar pop/rock template, and Neil Finn has openly acknowledged his love for other pop craftsmen like The Beatles and Elton John. Coupled with Neil Finn’s settled personal life, reflected in his songs, there have always been criticisms of the group being a safe, “dad-rock” band. While there’s certainly some truth in this, I don’t listen to Crowded House for experimentation and boundary pushing, and  the main draw-card has always been Neil Finn’s expertly crafted songs. If you’re a skeptic, at least give Together Alone a chance – Youth’s unorthodox production techniques and the wild New Zealand landscape bring the best out of the band, and parts of the record are rawer and more beautiful than anything else in their catalogue.

While Neil Finn was the creative lynch-pin, writing the large majority of the material, drummer Paul Hester was arguably the soul of Crowded House. His unpredictable antics enlivened the band’s concerts, and they’re a more fun live band than their formal studio records would indicate. Neil Finn went on record as saying: “Paul’s got limitations technically sometimes, but ….. he played my songs very well. He plays a shuffle in the same way I play the guitar. There was a certain chemistry in the band.”

I’m planning to cover the Split Enz catalogue sometime soon on a seperate page, but I have covered a bunch of Tim and Neil Finn’s other albums on this page. I’ve only covered one of Tim’s solo albums, but I’ve covered most of Neil’s solo projects up to around 2010. As a note, I’ve probably been a little too dismissive of the later work covered on this page – I haven’t been particularly excited about a Neil Finn album since 2001’s One Nil, but there’s still plenty of strong craftsmanship that dedicated fans will appreciate. 1995’s Finn is my favourite of the albums that the Finn brothers have been involved with outside of Split Enz and Crowded House, and it’s well worth hearing.

Ten Favourite Crowded House Songs

Distant Sun
Don’t Dream It’s Over
Private Universe
Hole In The River (specifically, the live version from the Recurring Dreams bonus disc)
Into Temptation
Fall At Your Feet
Nails In My Feet
Four Seasons in One Day
Catherine Wheels
In My Command