Crowded House

TrackAlbum
Don't Dream It's OverCrowded House
Into TemptationTemple Of Low Men
Fall At Your FeetWoodface
Fingers Of LoveTogether Alone
InstinctRecurring Dream: The Very Best of ...
Left HandRecurring Dream: Special Edition Live Album
Recurring DreamAfterglow
Silent HouseTime On Earth
IsolationIntriguer
Better Be Home SoonThe Very Very Best Of Crowded House

 

Crowded House photo

Crowded House (l to r): Neil Finn (guitar, vocals), Nick Seymour (bass), Paul Hester (drums)

 

 

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Crowded House playlist

 

 

Contributor: Nicola Tyzack

Writing about Crowded House has always been a bit difficult for me. They are without doubt my all-time favourite band, but due to this accolade it can be troubling to put pen to paper. When it’s your favourite you want to do a good job and prove to the readers who might not be as familiar with the work of this artist why you love them so much. When I wrote my recent tribute to Crowded House for their thirty-year anniversary I had that same feeling of dread. Was it good enough? Does it show why the music is so important? Will anyone like it? Well, I needn’t have worried as the response was very positive and in fact it was the reason I was asked to write for Toppermost in the first place (see Nicola’s first toppermost on Turin Brakes … Ed.). And with that in mind, I promised that I would do another post just for the site which you are currently reading now.

So I guess the first question should be, why is the band so important to me? When they first came to my attention I would have been around 14 years old and desperately trying to fit in at senior school. I was never the coolest teenager and possibly finding a band that wasn’t the coolest on the scene either spoke to me on a certain level. We could both be on the outside of the mainstream together which is pretty much what happened. When Woodface was released that year it would become my companion and an album that I often return to when I need a bit of comfort in my life.

It was an incredibly hard task to select just ten tracks to share with you and this list is by no means definitive. Instead, I have gone chronologically through each of the albums and picked the tracks which I think either stand out or showcase the Crowdies and what they are all about.

1986 saw the debut self-titled album released into the world and folks in their native New Zealand/Australia loved it. Here in the UK, we didn’t notice. Despite the fact that the album contains one of the most enduring and beautiful songs ever written, Don’t Dream It’s Over, we didn’t buy into their sound. The song has since been covered several times and it was possibly Paul Young who brought it to our attention when he put it on his singles collection album in 1991. It’s a standard of the band’s live performances and the fans can easily sing back the lyrics with the required sentimentality.

The difficult second album, which I believe Neil Finn jokingly referred to at the time as ‘Mediocre Follow Up’, appeared in 1988 and is called Temple Of Low Men. Now, I won’t go into detail as to the meaning of the album title, but let’s just say those boys are incredibly cheeky! This album contains what I consider to be one of their best songs, Into Temptation, which is a piece of sheer beauty, so emotive it’s simply breathtaking.

Woodface is the album that cemented my love for the band in 1991 as I was there in time for its release. I’m not quite sure what it was that first caught my attention; perhaps it was the infectious sound of tracks like It’s Only Natural or maybe it was the brotherly harmonies and songwriting of Neil and Tim Finn which are reminiscent of Lennon and McCartney/Tilbrook and Difford or perhaps it was just because I was looking for something that spoke to my teenage sensibilities. And they did on such a level that I went all the way across London to the Hammersmith Apollo at the age of 15 so I could see them live. It was the start of an ongoing love affair with their music that has never abated.

The third album brought them to the attention of the record buying public due to what has come to be known as ‘the weather song’ which I have deliberately not chosen as a top ten track. Everyone knows it, it’s a great track, but it’s not actually about what you think it is. Instead, I have picked a different album track and what could be considered as ‘son of Into Temptation’, the gorgeous Fall At Your Feet. So achingly beautiful, it’s just plain wonderful.

1993 saw the boys relocate to the remote Kare Kare in New Zealand with producer Youth to record Together Alone. This album has more of an experimental sound which is credited to both Youth and the extreme weather conditions of the writing and recording location. I could have chosen any number of tracks from this album, but in the end I’ve plumped for Fingers Of Love. Give it a listen and hopefully you’ll understand why.

Crowded House split for good in 1996 and it was a very sad time for me. I’d discovered a band who I thought would be my lifelong partners in music and now I’d have to find someone else to take their place. I hadn’t had that much time with them and I wasn’t ready to give them up just yet. The release of a ‘best of’ album entitled Recurring Dream: The Very Best of Crowded House would show just how much talent the band had and it went on to stay on the UK chart for 91 weeks. The album contained three new songs specially written for the record with Instinct being the stand-out in my opinion.

There was also a special edition of the album released at the same time which featured a separate disc of live tracks from across the years. The live version of Left Hand always makes me smile due to the background antics of Paul Hester so I had to include it in my top ten.

The band would play a farewell concert in 1996 and go their separate ways. It was the end of an era and left a massive hole in my life which was never filled as no-one came close to my beloved House. 1999 brought an album of B-sides and rarities called Afterglow which was a welcome addition to my collection. It included the wonderful track Recurring Dream which was previously on the single release of Four Seasons In One Day a few years before. It contains a piece of guitar brilliance and is an extremely catchy little number.

I’ve followed Neil Finn’s solo career with great interest and have loved all of his albums, but there was always a part of me that wished and hoped that Crowded House would reform. Sadly, that would never happen featuring the original line up as Paul Hester lost his battle with depression in 2005 and took his own life. It was absolutely devastating news and he is very sorely missed.

Neil Finn and Nick Seymour reunited to work on some tracks for what was meant to be Neil’s third solo album in 2006, but they ended up sounding more like they should be Crowded House songs. Once Mark Hart was back on board and Matt Sherrod joined as their new drummer, Crowded House, albeit a new version, were back. It was a joyous time.

Time On Earth was released in 2007 and reached number three in the UK charts. It had only taken twenty years and five albums for the British music buying public to fall in love with this band as much as I had. The track Silent House is not necessarily an easy listen as it’s about Paul, but it’s a fitting tribute to him and a beautiful song.

Their last album was released in 2010 and was entitled Intriguer. Again, this record contains quite a few tracks that I could have easily chosen as part of this top ten, but I’ve gone for Isolation. My main reason being that towards the end of the song the guitar hits loud reminding me of perhaps T. Rex and I always imagine Neil kicking over the amp while he’s rocking out! He probably didn’t, but I’d love it if that was actually true. No new work has come from the Crowded House camp since this album, but I am hopeful that they will release something again soon.

For the final track I looked to yet another ‘best of’ album which was released in 2010. The Very Very Best of Crowded House is another compilation of tracks which isn’t quite as good as Recurring Dream, but it gives me the perfect excuse to include Better Be Home Soon. Such a wonderful song and another one that Neil has dedicated to Paul when playing it live so it always has a very special place in my heart.

After thirty years here is a band that has stood the test of time. The legacy of Crowded House is that we all know more of their songs than we think we do and I guarantee that if I started to sing “everywhere you go” out loud there will always be a response of “you always take the weather with you” from someone. Fact. They are the best band I have seen live due to their rapport with the audience and their ridiculous humour and I have no hint of embarrassment when I tell people they are my favourite ever band. Neil once tweeted “I have written some good songs. Don’t ever apologise to your hip friends for liking them. They’ll be singing them in a karaoke bar someday” and I couldn’t agree with him more.

If you have never seriously listened to them and only know the stalwart songs from the radio, I urge you to dig a bit deeper. There’s a mountain of tracks that you can listen to and this top ten is just the tip of the iceberg. Their earlier work when they were but a three piece may be a bit hit and miss in places, but the later albums reflect a confidence in their abilities as they teetered on becoming the huge success that they so rightfully deserved. Neil Finn remains a genius songwriter with timeless lyrics and a passion for his art that never ever wanes. You will know more Crowded House songs than you think you do. It’s a certainty.

 

 

 

Both Neil Finn and Paul Hester played in Tim Finn’s 70s new wave band, Split Enz. Neil was in the band from 1977 until its demise in 1984.

The Finn brothers were awarded OBEs in 1993 for their contribution to the music of New Zealand. For details of Neil Finn’s solo albums click here, for Tim Finn’s click here and the Finn Brothers releases here.

In 1994, Crowded House was named International Group of the Year at the BRIT Awards.

 

Paul Hester (1959–2005)

Peter Jones (1963-2012)

 

Crowded House website

Neil Finn official website

Tim Finn official website

Mark Hart official website

Nick Seymour (Wikipedia)

Matt Sherrod (Wikipedia)

“Crowded House: Something So Strong” by Chris Bourke (1997 biography)

Kia Kaha – Split Enz fansite & archive

Crowded House biography (iTunes)

After writing for other sites for a while, Nicola decided to give it a go on her own and now runs Sounds Familiar sharing articles, interviews and reviews on the music she loves. You can follow Nicola on twitter @call_me_cynical and @soundsfamiliarb

TopperPost #555

7 Comments

  1. Johny Nocash
    Sep 23, 2016

    A great Toppermost, Nicola. Very difficult to narrow down to only ten; there’s none I could argue with, although personally I’d put Not The Girl You Think You Are just ahead of Instinct. An enjoyable read, anyway. Thanks.

    • Nicola Tyzack
      Sep 25, 2016

      Thanks Johny, It was very difficult to put together as like you say to narrow it down to only ten tracks was hard. As much as I like ‘Not The Girl You Think You Are’, I must admit I often skip over it. I totally get what they were trying to achieve with the track, but it’s not really a personal favourite of mine. But that’s the beauty of writing these pieces, the conversation they bring!

  2. Alex Lifson
    Sep 25, 2016

    Great essay. I could’ve included most of the first first album. As well, I remember a video they did, an acoustic version of Sister Madly, that showed the special bond that they had.

    • Nicola Tyzack
      Sep 25, 2016

      Thanks Alex. I’m hoping an essay is a good thing! There were so many tracks that I could’ve included which is why I had to resort to chronological order to work it out. They certainly did have a very special bond and I’m so glad I got to see them play live in their original form.

  3. Richard Warran
    Sep 25, 2016

    One of the best gigs I’ve ever been too was the Together Alone tour at Brighton Centre the night before they played Glastonbury. They had brought some Maori log drummers over for the Glasto gig but they played with them at Brighton – the sound of them with the band was amazing. I also had the pleasure of meeting Neil. I was in London a few years back with my wife and some friends to see a band I liked called Palace Fires who were supporting Connan Mockasin, and who was in the crowd but Neil Finn. I sent my wife over to him, she chatted to him for ages before I went over. I was so star struck that I couldn’t really think of anything to say of interest but Neil was lovely. Sitting next to him was Norman Cook who none of us had noticed, they had been out to dinner together and I remember Neil saying how star struck he had been that night as Madonna was sitting near him in Nobu. I’ve seen Neil and Crowded House many times over the years and they definitely deserve a place at the Toppermost top table, fantastic band.

  4. Keith Shackleton
    Sep 25, 2016

    Thankyou Nicola, a sterling effort and quite tricky. I wouldn’t argue with any of your selections, but Distant Sun is a favourite. Though Neil is a fixture around town at gigs, and I’ve been there at his Seven Worlds Collide charity gigs when some of these songs appear, the only time I’ve ever seen the band was a rather memorable occasion at Coachella in 2007, in the run up to Time On Earth. The band were scheduled before Rage Against The Machine, and their pop-rock stylings didn’t exactly entrance the large crowd of renegades and frat-boys who were massing for a good rage. But they gave a good account of themselves nonetheless.

  5. David Lewis
    Sep 29, 2016

    I quite like the Tim Finn years, and Chocolate Cake is a particular favourite of mine. Certainly, Neil Finn is a master songwriter. I believe McCartney said ‘If I was starting out in songwriting today, I’d look to Neil Finn as a role model’ (or some such). They are apparently doing a 20 year anniversary gig on the steps of the Sydney Opera House – I’m gigging myself that night (and so will obviously drag the crowds away… 😉 ) but it will be an amazing gig.

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