KamerTunesBlog

Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time

Thirty Year Thursday – CROWDED HOUSE “CROWDED HOUSE”

[Welcome to Thirty Year Thursday, the weekly series on my favorite albums of 1986, which now shifts to the releases I didn’t discover until after 1986]

Artist: CROWDED HOUSE
Album: CROWDED HOUSE

crowded-house-crowded-houseAlthough my college band performed “Don’t Dream It’s Over,” their gorgeous ballad with thought-provoking (and occasionally puzzling) lyrics and a stunning organ solo inspired by Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade Of Pale” (itself an homage to Bach), it took some time for me to appreciate what a special band Crowded House was. Perhaps it was the goofy videos for songs like “Something So Strong” and “Now We’re Getting Somewhere,” both of which are close to pop perfection, that initially turned me off, but I eventually grew to appreciate the pure joy they exhibited, which came through on record and in concert. Lead singer/guitarist/songwriter Neil Finn previously made a name for himself with Split Enz, the New Zealand band formed by his older brother Tim, which morphed from an art-rock ensemble to a pop/new wave hit-making machine (at least in Australia & New Zealand), although they’re best known throughout most of the world as one-hit wonders with 1980’s “I Got You.” Following that band’s breakup in 1984, the younger Finn recruited latter-day Enz drummer Paul Hester and his bass-playing fellow Australian Nick Seymour to form Crowded House.

They enjoyed immediate success with their million-selling debut album, the Mitchell Froom-produced Crowded House. In addition to the songs mentioned above, two other singles were successful in their homeland: The immensely catchy album crowded-house-photo-circa-1986opener, “Mean To Me,” which moves from acoustic guitar & voice to a horn-infused full band arrangement, and “World Where You Live,” which is jam-packed with melodies and tasteful organ accents. The midtempo “Hole In The River,” co-written with Finn’s Split Enz bandmate Eddie Rayner, shifts from a moody & atmospheric opening to a peppier second verse highlighted by some nice keyboard textures, a solid groove & Finn’s smooth, powerful vocals. There’s also an Enz-esque instrumental middle section with horns & piano that heads off into a jazzier direction before returning to the original melody. “Tombstone” is a fast-paced gem with a killer hook in the chorus (“Roll back the tombstone, let the saints appear”). Had this been released as a single there’s little doubt it would have been another hit. The remaining tracks are very good but have never impacted me as much as the songs I’ve discussed. With seven undisputed winners it’s hard to argue that Crowded House is one of the all-time great debuts, even though it just missed inclusion in my Great Out Of The Gate series. In spite of a few minor mid-‘80s production touches, it’s a timeless classic that still sounds fresh after 30 years.

For more on this album, check out Wardo’s even-handed (if not quite as effusive) review here.

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24 comments on “Thirty Year Thursday – CROWDED HOUSE “CROWDED HOUSE”

  1. jcbradleyjr
    September 22, 2016

    Did you see that Crowded House announced deluxe CD reissues of all their records (as well as vinyl reissues) today? Great timing!

    I love this record. Really they did not make a bad one during their run. I got to see them a few years ago during their last tour. One of the great concert experiences of my life.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I did read about those upcoming deluxe editions. Will have to save my money for the day of release. I only saw them once, on the Together Alone tour in ’94. Didn’t like the venue but still enjoyed the show and could tell what a great live band they were. Glad you had such a memorable experience seeing them.

      Like

  2. Kevin
    September 22, 2016

    Finn is a songwriting hero of mine, but it wasn’t until their next album that I really took notice. Then, when Woodface came out…wow.

    Like

  3. Jeff Kempin
    September 22, 2016

    Big fan of Crowded House. Would love to get this album and Woodface on vinyl.

    Like

  4. Vinyl Connection
    September 22, 2016

    Fine review of what is without doubt, one of the best pop-rock debuts of all time. Enjoyed the comments that linked to their engaging live shows too. I have a huge raft of concert CDs that were ‘Fan Club’ only releases… but that’s another story.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Bruce. I only have one semi-official live album, which I believe was from the Woodface tour, and it showcased just how great a live act they were. I wonder if the same holds true for the reunited lineup after Paul Hester’s death. I’ve seen some live footage but it’s never the same as being there in person.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. 2loud2oldmusic
    September 22, 2016

    Great album. Didn’t know about the reissues. Can’t wait for that.

    Like

  6. alanskennedy
    September 22, 2016

    Rich – I love this album as much as you do. I always thought of them as a New Zealand band, so I was surprised to learn for the first time, I think, that the other two guys besides Neil were Australian! But I’m curious: which album do you think a stronger – this one, or Temple of Low Men?

    Like

    • Hi Alan. I’m sure we spoke about Crowded House numerous times during our “record club” get-togethers, but I had forgotten how much of a fan you are. Glad we feel the same about this album. I haven’t listened to their other ones in a few years so I can’t give an accurate assessment, but I remember really liking Temple Of Low Men. I also thought Woodface was pretty great (in spite of the silly “Chocolate Cake”). Tim Finn was a natural fit for them to expand their sound. He also helped tip the balance to 50/50 between New Zealand and Australia.

      Like

  7. Yahooey
    September 23, 2016

    As a fact junkie, I can’t help myself from mentioning that while Crowded House is considered an Australian band, Neil Finn is a New Zealander.

    Like

    • As someone who loves a good nitpicking I appreciate your comment, but I should point out that I didn’t imply Neil is Australian. I mentioned that he was in Split Enz, who are from New Zealand, and that his two Crowded House bandmates were Australian. The bottom line, of course, is that they made great music.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. ballad163
    September 23, 2016

    Got this when it came out. Girl I was sharing a house with worked for the label and she played it all the time. While not being a massive Split Enz fan this one I thought was a classic. [with some clunkers] Actually got to meet Paul Hester at a gig in Mudgee where Crowded House supported Split Enz [Neil was a busy boy!!] Fond memories of Paul who I didn’t realise at that time had the ‘tears of a clown’. Saw many shows after that too !!

    Like

    • Thanks for sharing your background with this record and your interaction with Paul Hester. That’s a sad story indeed, especially when you consider how happy he always looked. I’m glad you also gave this album a fair assessment, since it does have a few clunkers, but even their clunkers weren’t bad. They just weren’t on the same level as the 7 (for me, at least) great songs here.

      I didn’t realize Crowded House supported Split Enz. When did that happen? I know that Enz has reunited numerous times over the years, but didn’t think that happened while the original Crowded House lineup was active.

      Like

      • ballad163
        September 23, 2016

        It was 1989 and Mudgee was the 1st date of the combined tour. Tragically the 2nd gig had to be postponed as it was in Newcastle and the venue they were to play in was struck by an earthquake. There were fatalities. The band’s roadies had not arrived. The club had the most damage in the town !

        Like

  9. keepsmealive
    September 23, 2016

    Nothing but love for this record, Rich! I have it on LP and CD, so I’m never caught without it. Right on for this post!

    Like

    • Awesome…another one in common. Thanks for letting me know. Did you hear about the upcoming deluxe reissues of the entire Crowded House discography?

      Have a great weekend.

      Like

  10. Murphy's Law
    September 24, 2016

    Maybe if the Crowded House reissues do well, they’ll reissue the Split Enz catalog. I like Crowded House, but Split Enz’ later work really hit the perfect blend of quirky and poppy that I like.

    Like

    • I have the Enz To Enz box set, which includes a number of bonus tracks on all the discs. Is there additional material that was left off that set? I also wonder if the expanded discs in the set were ever released separately.

      Like

  11. J.
    September 25, 2016

    Nice timing, Rich; I’ve been thinking it’s about time I revisited this bunch!

    I’ve only ever owned one studio album (Woodface) which I liked, but then tired of. A timing thing, I believe. I’ll start here, which is ideal given it’s their first!

    Like

    • Woodface was the album that made me re-assess my feelings about Crowded House, which made me go back to the previous two albums. Now I’ll buy anything Neil Finn releases. I hope you enjoy the earlier CH albums whenever you check them out.

      Like

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