Crowded House Play “Kare Kare”

Crowded House Together AloneListen to this track by Antipodean heroes and top of the range pop song exporters Crowded House. It’s “Kare Kare”, the opening track to their fourth album Together Alone, released in October of 1993 and produced by Youth, he of Killing Joke and a very sought after producer at the time.

The record was something a transitional work for the band, losing Tim Finn as a full-time member who’d only been with them for 1991’s Woodface. He would appear as a supporting player on this record. By the time this song was recorded, they’d taken on a brand new member in American multi-instrumentalist Mark Hart to apply his skills as guitarist and keyboardist. Also, their stalwart collaborator Mitchell Froom’s signature production style, not to mention his keyboard work that had helped to define some of their most successful hits, was not to be heard on the sessions.

Possibly because of these changes, the work itself stands out from the rest of the band’s catalogue up until then. Where the songs that head writer Neil Finn wrote never dealt in absolute dark or light, the songs on this record were decidedly further along the spectrum toward the darker end.

So after seven years of being a band by this point, and a very successful one at that, why the long face, Crowded House?

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Neil Finn Sings “She Will Have Her Way”

Here’s a clip of New Zealand favourite son, Crowded House occupant, and songwriting heavyweight Neil Finn. It’s the 1998 single “She Will Have Her Way”, as taken from his first solo outing that year, Try Whistling This. And once again, we see that Neil Finn’s approach to the writing of love songs doesn’t follow the most direct route, which of course brings the theme of love right down to earth, and sometimes deeper underground.

The record was lauded in the music press at the time, although hints at a more experimentalist approach worried many. Crowded House had broken up a year before, and Finn was starting anew. A different approach was to be expected. And the first single off of the record, “Sinner”, certainly demonstrated a repositioned approach sonically, mixing pop/rock arrangements with (gasp!) samples.

Yet, “She Will Have Her Way” is as hook-laden and smart as any Crowded House tune, and with one of my favourite videos of the decade to recommend it. Read more

Crowded House Play ‘Something So Strong’

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!

Neil Finn Performs ‘Hole In The Ice’

Here’s a clip of songwriting colossus Neil Finn with a live take on his 2001  track ‘Hole in the Ice’ as taken from his 7 Worlds Collide live album and accompanying DVD.  The studio version is featured on the One Nil album, released in North America in 2002 under the title of One All.

Neil Finn joined Split Enz in 1978 while barely out of his teens. Since then, he formed the very succesful Crowded House, made records with his older brother Tim as the Finn Brothers, and maintained a solo career.  His latest efforts have been channel into a new version of Crowded House currently touring as of this writing.
Neil Finn joined Split Enz in 1977 while still in his teens. Since then, he formed the very succesful Crowded House by the mid-80s, made records with his older brother Tim as the Finn Brothers, and maintained a solo career too. His latest efforts have been channelled into a new version of Crowded House currently touring as of this writing.

To demonstrate his admiration among musicians, the concert off of which this track comes features some prominent guests in Johnny Marr (The Smiths, Modest Mouse), Lisa Germano,  Phil Selway  and Ed O’Brien of Radiohead, Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam, and brother Tim Finn among others.

This is one of my favourite songs by one of my favourite artists.  On paper this song shouldn’t really work.  The first bit is a shouty attack, as close to a right-out-of-the-box sonic bludgeoning as Finn has ever gotten (with maybe his earlier song with Crowded House “Kill Eye” gives it a run for its money).  The second is the soaring “And I won’t travel…” section, with those angelic “ah ah” backing vocals. The two seem to be from different songs entirely.  Yet, Finn puts them together, and they seem to complement each other beautifully.  How does he do it?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; Neil Finn is one of the best pop songwriters alive today, as good as Paul McCartney ever was, and adding in some of the darkness and attractive impenetrability of Leonard Cohen too to the McCartneyesque confection while he’s at it.

For more music, check out the Neil Finn MySpace page.

And of course, check in to the Crowded House site to see what the newly reformed band are up to next.

Enjoy!

Crowded House Perform “Pour Le Monde” From the Album Time on Earth

Here’s a clip of Crowded House performing their song “Pour Le Monde”, from their 2007 comeback record Time on Earth.

[Click hear Pour Le Monde]

Paul HesterWith the good news of Crowded House coming together again last year, both in the studio as well as on the road, came the reminder of the death of friend and founding member, Paul Hester. Hester was the band’s Ringo, not just because he was the drummer, but because he was in many ways the spirit of the band. He was funny, affable, but also troubled at the same time. It might be argued that Neil Finn’s “Leonard and McCartney” (as in Leonard Cohen…) dual-natured songwriting was lived by Hester, who suffered from chronic manic depression. He committed suicide in 2005.

While on the road with Tim Finn as the Finn Brothers, Neil Finn invited former Crowded House bassist Nick Seymour on stage to pay tribute to Paul Hester at the Royal Albert Hall on the evening of March 28 that year. The appearance drove the eventual re-launch of Crowded House, re-uniting members Nick Seymour on bass, and multi-instrumentalist and latter-day addition to the group Marc Hart. With the hiring of a new drummer in Matt Sharod, the band were ready for a record and a tour.

The new album was fueled by songs which Neil Finn was originally planning for a solo project. And much of the emotional content there was concerned with Paul Hester’s passing. In some ways, this tune arguably contains the whole story about the reformation of Crowded House (“And I wake up blind/Like my dreams were too bright/And I lost my regard/For the good things that I had “), grouped in with a leaden awareness of losing a member and a friend (“He’s the best you ever had”). The resulting record, while not somber by any stretch, is marked by a certain melancholy more so than in albums past. Ultimately, I think this makes for a very engaging album which I hope will present Finn and the band with the momentum needed to carry them into the next record.

I’m sure that the spirit of Hester will still be present while this group remains to be a going concern, as he was when he was alive and drumming with them. Tales of his exploits while with the band (appearing naked on stage during a Neil Finn solo piano spot while grinning ear to ear, being one) were affectionately recounted from the stage during the show I saw. But, I think the opening line, “he imagines the world/as the angels ascending/like the ghost of the man/who is tied up to the chair” is telling of a writer who is likely to leave the past behind, celebrating the memory, but not being held by it. I think this bodes well for the life of the group. But, we’ll see.

Just as an aside, I cannot over-emphasize just how enjoyable the band’s live 2-disc set Farewell to the World is. Not only does this give the first-time listener a grand view of what this band was like to see live, it also gives you a glimpse into Paul Hester’s charisma, joie de vivre, and playful sense of mischief while on stage.

If you are new to Crowded House, want an overview of the band’s catalogue, or are wondering what all the fuss is about, then you should start here. This was the group’s last performance with Hester in the drum seat, recorded (and filmed too) at the steps of the Sydney Opera House in November 1996.