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  Crowded House  
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Look, it's a new Crowded House record. I know what you are thinking, and yes the band did break up in the mid 1990s. They took a 14 year hiatus, but have been back in existence for 3 years now. This is the second record from the resurrected band.

Chances are you have heard Crowded House songs before. They had some HUGE hits in the 1980s (Don't Dream It's Over, Something So Strong, Weather With You, etc.), and i would think that most people have at least a passing familiarity with the band. You should know what to expect here: light pop tunes with complex vocals and delicate yet "normal rock" arrangements. Crowded House are a pop band in the model of The Beatles or Elvis Costello and the Attractions. This is radio-friendly music with a catchy beat and some words to sing along with.

I have been a fan for a long time, and in fact caught them on their 2008 reunion tour. I thought they put on a great show, but for some reason the album that they were touring for, 2007's Time on Earth failed to grab me as much as their earlier work, perhaps because that was the album wherein songwriter Neil Finn dealt with the 2005 suicide of drummer Paul Hester. It might be artistically cathartic, but the general mood is tad on the depressing side. However, Intruiger is less of a one-theme record, and as such highlights a band back at the top of their game.

The album starts off with distorted guitar and a hard drum beat. The song is Saturday Sun, which is a rock song. That is a little unusual for Crowded House, but this moves along intensely, with distorted guitars, fast drumming, and Neil Finn even kind of screaming some of the vocals. Not what i expected, but it is still a pretty good tune.

The next tune, Archer's Arrows slows it back down a bit. This moves at the happy yet unhurried pop music pace. Here Crowded House add some strings, synths, and a nice piano riff. This is a really catchy tune, and might be my favorite on this record.

Amsterdam is a kind of melancholy song that moves along under acoustic guitar. While Either Side Of The World is a light tune with layers of horns and tapped drums under the voice and guitar. It is a sunny, pleasant tune, like Crowded House do so well.

On Falling Dove, Neil Finn channels Paul McCartney. This song starts slowly and lightly, builds to a nice middle of staccato piano and Finn growling in a McCartney-esque fashion, then descends back to the almost folk music that Finn does so well. A beautiful tune.

Isolation gets away from the Beatles influence, and instead meanders under a wandering West Coast pop mode. There is echoing guitar in slow arpeggios, little keyboard trills, and a delightful female vocal bit from Sharon Dawn Johnson, aka Mrs. Neil Finn. The guitar builds and builds into a nice freakout towards the end, with Liam Finn (Neil and Sharon's eldest son) hammering away at his guitar, and the various band members singing in falsetto harmony. It is odd to hear Crowded House do Queen, but it works.

It's back to the catchy pop for Twice If You're Lucky, a light song that features a good sing-along chorus. Inside Out is a rocker that references Paul McCartney and country guitars, while Even If is a slow tune with piano and an abbreviated drum beat under Finn's melancholy voice. Finally the record ends with Elephants, a really beautiful tune. Finn sings lightly, a piano tinkles along, and a slide guitar whines. It is a nice end to the record.

So, Crowded House aren't really doing anything too out of the ordinary, but they certainly do it well. This is one of the best pop records that i have heard in a while. Now, granted, i don't listen to all that much pop music these days, but this is still fine stuff. I am glad to see that this band is still at it.

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