crowded_house_-_chListen 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

Enjoy!

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11 thoughts on “Crowded House Play ‘Something So Strong’

  1. The very first album I bought with my own money was a K-tel compilation called ‘Chart Action’ and Split Enz’s ‘Six Months in a Leaky Boat’ was among the songs on it. I saw Crowded House in Edmonton back in the 80s when a friend won tickets on the radio. I’ve always been a fan of songs that sound upbeat but have lyrics that tell a different story.

    1. Hi Stacie!

      I look for that in music as well, and I think the popularity of the approach was certainly popularized by the late 70s and early 80s with post-punk. This filtered down into radio pop singles like this one. To me, it’s a shame that this kind of subversion no longer seems to exist in pop songs.

      Neil Finn has described his own songwriting style as Leonard (as in Cohen) & McCartney; a sweet tune with layers of gray streaked darkness underneath. He remains to be one of my favourite songwriters of all time.

      I saw Crowded House on the 2007 re-union tour, and Neil did the Split Enz-era tune ‘Message To My Girl’ on solo piano. It was absolutely revelatory. What a song!

    1. Hi Derek!

      Agreed, those Finn Brothers records are pretty great, although they are like night and day from each other in some respects. The second one is the more refined, while the first sounds like the guys went downstairs after dinner and a couple of glasses of wine and knocked it out – in a good way.

      I wrote a post about Paul Hester, a link to which I’ve included above. He had struggled with manic depression, which is the real cause of his death in my opinion.

      Thanks a lot for comments.

  2. Sting had a way with a subversive lyric disguised by a catchy melody; I always felt the narrator of some of those Police songs didn’t have to stretch much to play the character Martin in Brimstone & Treacle.

  3. Hey WIGSF – you’re always welcome to chime in!

    Geoff – Yes, that’s true of Sting as well. It was when he stopped doing that in his solo career that things began to take a downward turn, at least for me. In Finn’s case, it seems to be the way he’s wired as an artist.

    Thanks for comments, guys!

    1. Agreed, to a point Geoff. Some of his early solo work continues along the interplay of dark and light, say from the first one to The Soul Cages. But, at a certain point he’s just writing bland crowd-pleasers, it’s true. Neil Finn has certainly been the more consistent writer on this score.

  4. Hi, I just thought I’d post a comment and inform you that your web site layout is really screwed up on the Firefox browser. Seems to work ok in Internet Explorer though. Anyhow keep up the great work.

    1. Cheers.

      I’ve not noticed anything untoward in Firefox lately, but I’m working in Safari mostly these days. So, I’ll check it out as soon as I can. FF is pretty flaky on the MAC it seems these days, so I avoid it when on that platform. And I hate IE.

      Thanks for news and for reading. 🙂

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