Crowded House: Farewell to the World

crowdedhouse.jpgListen in with Bob and Elise as we check out the new Crowded House release:

E: Did you read the liner notes?

B: Not yet.

E: This is Crowded House’s 1996 “farewell” concert performed live six months after drummer Paul Hester quit in the middle of their last tour. It says he left suddenly because he missed his family. But who suddenly leaves mid-tour from homesickness? Sounds more like he left in a huff.

B: Either that or he’s got one hell of a fun family. Well this is about what I remember, polite, creatively arranged 80s-ish pop. Ooh, a horn section!

E: I have old Split Enz concert footage from an 80s Night Flight episode. I seem to remember it just going on forever, and the guy had gigantic hair. So which part of this band was in Split Enz?

B: Paul Hester and the singer, Neil Finn, were in Split Enz before they formed Crowded House.

E: His singing is very shout-y. The audience loves them. But it seems like the recording can’t quite capture the excitement of the live performance. It seems muted.

B: I saw them once at the WOMAD festival in 1993. They weren’t all that exciting there either. But they’re not really a wild-abandon kind of band.

E: The liner notes make it sound like they are Australia’s Beatles. Their fans are very intense. It talks about “the legend that is Crowded House”. When it complains about Neil Finn breaking up the band, it says, “In one sense it was his to break up. In another sense it was our group as much as his.” I thought Paul Hester broke up the band. Maybe it’s a bad sign I’m intently reading the liner notes while the CD is playing. So far this is kind of boring.

B: Not what you’d call power-pop, is it? Maybe this is the spiritual godfather of all those weak-ass bands that fill up “The O.C.” and what not. Well, no, it’s better than that, but it’s stuck on one level of intensity and I’m starting to drift.

E: Wait. Oh my God, did you hear that lyric? “The thunderclap of blood pouring into the rain of my emotions” What song is this? It’s called When You Come Oh my God, these lyrics, “…like a cumulonimbus...” He definitely took Meteorology. These are the best lyrics ever.

B: Slayer is much more convincing singing about raining blood.

E: Let's check out Distant Sun.

B: It's all very crafty but kind of dull... they're definitely on the Beatles side of the continuum. I wonder what they'd sound like doing Stones covers.

E: I can almost see the bass player doing that new wave arching swing back and forth in time to the music.

B: Nah, politely head-nodding.

E: Or that chicken-pecking move. This song is boring too. "...comes twirlin' down your neck with a new one to expect?" What the hell is he talking about?

Let's listen to the Pineapple Head one. This one is more folky-screedley. It sounds like Simon and Garfunkel singing over Jethro Tull. OK, I can stand this one.

B: Nice. I can see why they get a lot of critical respect, they have some of that XTC ability to find a sugary hook & build arrangements around it. I just wish they showed a little more momentum once in a while.

E: Yeah, I can hear the XTC. "I will play you like a shawl and clutch at your heart"? Is he saying "play you like a shark"? How do you play a shark? Oh, like "You got played".

Hmm, Fall at Your Feet sounds like a nice song to play while you make sweet, sweet, love with your high school sweetheart.

B: A real slow-dance panty-moistener. I could get behind this if it was still 1984. Better than Almost Paradise anyway.

E: OK...I'm jumping over to Whispers and Moans

B: I'm starting to look at my watch. Well, this one's coming on all menacing-like, as if the chess club is pissed off and headed for you. But then the singing starts and they wuss out and run away.

E: So that's what you meant - they moistened their own panties?

B: I think Avril Lavigne would beat these guys up in a dark alley.

E: I don't know. Australians will hit you with bottles. Maybe she could beat up the keyboard player.

Oh, nice toms on the end of that one. Hole in the River. I like it. That's the one about his aunt's suicide.

This is definitely festival music. I can imagine that it's raining and you're on mushrooms with a bunch of cute, blonde, Australian girls wearing just shorts and bikini tops. Oh, they starting singing and ruined it again. OK, moving on to disk two. Did this really need to be a 2-disk set?

Here is a hit song - Something so Strong. Very new wave.

B: This has a more Big Star stridency to it. This is clearly the best one we've heard yet. By the way, the singer is from New Zealand. They're not all Australians.

E: Kiwis will still hit you with bottles. This song is very anthem-y. I think I'm going to wave my hands in the air. Woah, where did that weird keyboard come from?

B: Yeah, now they're sounding like they mean it.

E: And it only took them 15 songs to find their groove. Yeah, they really mean it now. Listen to that piano go!

B: And finally a song with a different beat! Sister Madly, is it? Not bad.

E: Maybe the second disk was recorded at a different show.

B: Nope, it's the entire final show. For some reason they stuck all of the interesting songs at the end of the set.

E: But the recording quality and mix sound totally different. Maybe the sound guy just woke up.

I can see why people like them. This song, It's Only Natural is good. The second disk must have mixed in less of the audience. It sounds crisper. It almost sounds like they're in a studio.

B: I can't think of anything to say about these songs that we haven't said about the earlier ones. It's nine courses of Farina.

E: In my Command is totally Beatle-y.

Throw Your Arms Around Me... "We may never meet again so shed your skin and lets get started." Eek, his idea of romantic lyrics give me the willies.

Let's listen to Don't Dream it's Over and see if it make us teary, because it's the farewell song on their farewell tour. Maybe they'll all cry. Well, the audience certainly recognizes it. Mass slow clapping. Oh yeah, the "Hey, Now, Hey, Now" song.

B: It a nice song, and you can visualize 100,000 Ozzies weeping into their Fosters oil cans. I especially like the instrumental break in the middle... here it comes. Aw, that wasn't nearly as good as the record...

E: They couldn't play it right because they were crying too hard.

B: I must say, the Crowded House show I saw in '93 was only about 40 minutes long. I think that's probably the perfect length for them...this is getting interminable. Oh, I see, they're extending the end of Don't Dream It's Over...it's not really over until you get the mass singing.

E: I'm starting to think this CD will never, ever be over.

B: I know how to make it be over. "CLICK"

E: We have to leave the reader with something after all this. I would say, buy this CD if you are a die-hard fan, or from Australia. Or New Zealand. If you are going to download one song, I would recommend Pineapple Head.

B: I'd go for Something so Strong. I should also mention that it seems like cruel irony to release your farewell concert on the eve of your reunion tour. But, that's showbiz.

E: Well, the liner notes compare the band to a troubled marriage, so maybe they are saying, "I'm leaving. No, wait...I'm coming back. But I'm not forgetting why I left in the first place."


(Crowded House Fan Club hate mail may be directed to Bob Lee)