Listen to this track, a top 40 hit and opening salvo from Split Enz spinoff band Crowded House. It’s the immensely radio-friendly ‘Something So Strong’ from the band’s 1986 debut album, and cleverly titled it is too, Crowded House.
By the end of its life, Split Enz had been abandoned by one Finn brother, Tim, and handed over to the songwriting talents and leadership of his younger brother, Neil. The younger Finn had penned an important single for the band, ‘I Got You’ in 1979 on the pop-oriented True Colours album. And under his guidance, the band recorded another storming single in “Message To My Girl” by the early 80s. But, by then, Tim had left the band to pursue a solo career, and momentum for Split Enz was beginning to wane.
Split Enz held their farewell concert in 1984. One of the latter-day members of Split Enz was drummer Paul Hester, who followed leader Neil Finn’s path to the formation of a new band which also included the younger brother of Hunters & Collectors Mark Seymour, one Nick Seymour, on bass guitar. The fruits of their labours, with the help of producer and keyboardist Mitchell Froom, was the debut album that featured this song, and another international hit single “Don’t Dream It’s Over”, as their ticket onto the North American charts.
This song just pops with a sheen of aural optimism, even if the lyrics hint at something far more dark. And indeed, this radio single that was a top ten hit in North America, sounds like a jubilant love song, that actually hints at the dangers of love as much as it does its wonders. Neil Finn would never write a lyrically straight-forward pop song . But, his ability to create songs which sound like simple ear candy, while equally revealing hidden thematic depths, would always be his strength.
By the mid-80s, it seems to me that the face of pop music had taken a turn for the worse. At one point in pop history, accessible songs did not mean shallow writing hidden by studio trickery. But, generally speaking, the state of pop chart entries seemed to veer pretty close to this precipice by 1986. In this, the arrival of Crowded House on the scene helped to curtail this, and listeners were reminded that pop songs in the mainstream could be well constructed musically as well as lyrically challenging. And this would be Crowded House’s manifesto through out, even with this debut.
The band would put out four more albums, including a live farewell album, before dissolving officially in 1997. Members would join and fall away in this time, which is a hell of a run when you consider the quality of the material through out that span. The reunion tour and a new album by 2007 would bring them to public attention again, reminding everyone how many songs they had recorded that were instantly familiar.
For more information about Crowded House, check out CrowdedHouse.com