Crowded House: Time on Earth (ATO)

CD Review


The nearly universal acclaim that greeted the 1987 release of Crowded House's eponymous debut album was an appropriate response to the infectiously joyous Pop that permeated every perfect note of every compelling song on the album. As the trio of Neil Finn, Nick Seymour and Paul Hester grew physically (ultimately adding Tim Finn and Mark Hart) and emotionally over the years, Crowded House became more darkly complex and less immediately accessible, resulting in some unfairly harsh and ill-considered criticism. Much has transpired in the 14 years since the band's last studio album in 1993, including Neil's solo career, a pair of releases from the Finn brothers together, the release of Crowded House's 1996 farewell gig at the Sydney Opera House and a good deal of balanced re-examination of the band's accomplishments. Perhaps most significantly, Hester tragically took his own life two years ago, an event that reunited Finn and Seymour and inspired them to write songs to honor their fallen friend. The result is a full-fledged Crowded House reunion (with keyboardist Hart and new drummer Matt Sherrod) and their first album in nearly a decade and a half, Time on Earth. Like their post-debut albums, Time on Earth's gifts are not immediately apparent but grow and insinuate with each successive listen. Even at its most melancholy, Time on Earth stands as an astonishing example of Finn's Pop mastery and capacity for melody, from the quietly propulsive "Don't Stop Now" to the jaunty, jangly "She Called Up" to the heartrending "English Trees." (BB) Grade: A

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