Musical Elective of the Month: September-October 2010

Wednesday, September 29, 2010
The Musical Elective of the Month is Crowded House.

Those of you who know me well, you know that Crowded House is my all-time favorite band, going on almost 25 years dating back to my high school years. So you're probably asking, "What took you so long to feature them as a Musical Elective?" Well, patience isn't one of my virtues, but I do try to demonstrate it every once in a while. That said, I have featured founding member/lead singer/ songwriter Neil Finn as a solo Musical Elective as well as his son, Liam Finn, and Neil's 7 Worlds Collide collaboration with members of Wilco, Radiohead, Johnny Marr, KT Tunstall and other musical luminaries. So patience is overstated....

The Crowdies, as the band is affectionately known in Australia, just completed a tour of North America and are on their way to South Africa and Down Under. (Yours truly saw them in concert in Milwaukee on September 7.) Their new album, Intriguer, was released in July 2010. PopMatters offers a nice review, saying "Finn’s stability and contentment has informed the sound of Intriguer, a mature, thoughtful, and mostly mellow album.... It’s a great album in the classic mold, one that rewards you. It is fun to listen to, and though that fun is of the grown-up sort, it makes for one of the year’s best pop albums all the same."

As a bit of history, Neil Finn is one of the great, under-appreciated songsmiths of the last 30 years. A New Zealand native, as a teenager, he almost single-handedly lifted his older brother Tim's one-of-a-kind, art rock band Split Enz into New Wave prominence. Neil penned and sang the band's biggest #1 hit (in Canada, Australia and New Zealand), 1980's "I Got You."

Neil went on to form Crowded House in 1985 with drummer Paul Hester and bassist Nick Seymour, fashioning it into an internationally renowned band. The current line-up of Crowded House also includes Mark Hart, who joined the band prior to its 1994 album, and Matt Sherrod who replaced Hester as the band's drummer and had previously supported Beck. Crowded House reformed in 2006, coming together following the suicide of Paul Hester the year prior. The original group of tenants iteration broke their lease in 1996 in a Farewell To The World concert before a quarter million fans at the steps of the Sydney Opera House.

Crowded House's eponymous debut album was released in 1986 and produced two top 10 U.S. hits, "Don't Dream It's Over" and "Something So Strong." They never reached such heights again in the states, lost amidst the grunge and rap of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Crowded House's second album, Temple of Low Men, was a critical success in 1988 but a commercial disappointment, but includes such stellar tracks as "Into Temptation," "When You Come," and "Better Be Home Soon." Woodface, the third album, was released in 1991 and made the band certifiable stars in Europe. For this album, Tim Finn--Neil's older brother--joined the band as an official member and co-penned a number of the tracks. It includes the singles, "Fall At Your Feet," "Weather With You," "Four Seasons In One Day," and "It's Only Natural." Crowded House's fourth album, Together Alone, was released in 1994. It includes "Locked Out" (featured in the film Reality Bites) and the international hits "Distant Sun" and "Private Universe."

If you don't know Crowded House, by all means check them out. If you know them from years ago, give them fresh listen. YouTube (for links to live and TV appearances) and the official Crowded House web site are good starting places.
But you know what it means to me, babe
In the course of a history, hey
It all makes sense to me somehow
It’s a course in philosophy, yeah
What is life is it just a dream, no
The perfect mystery but somehow I know
You will love this one
You will love this one
And if we create something magical, honey
There are times come
These are times that come
Only once if your life
Or twice if you’re lucky

-- "Twice If You're Lucky," Intriguer (2010)
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