Crowded House’s “Intriguer”

“Archer’s Arrows” keeps the pace nicely, showcasing one of the drawing factors of this band: Neil Finn’s sincerely clear voice.” -HE

Holly Etchison

out of 10

July 13, 2010

Setting out to listen to Crowded House’s new album, Intriguer, I pictured a 45 I had of one of their late eighties hits, “Better Be Home Soon.” Following that remembrance I started humming the tune to “Don’t Dream It’s Over,” since it was used in movies, television, even some commercial jingles, and was apparently a good enough single (along with several others) for Queen Elizabeth II to bequeath the Order of the British Empire on the band’s founding members, Neil Finn and his brother Tim, for their contribution to the music of New Zealand. (I then recalled my own order from the Queen, which was the hasty extraction of my person from British soil following a travel escapade, but that’s another story of foreign intrigue entirely…) Finn’s latest collection of musicians under the moniker “Crowded House” (known as Crowdies to fans in Australia) has managed to update itself one decade into the new millennium with a collection of tunes that don’t really hearken past triumphs but could rekindle the interest of fans and new listeners alike.

The opening track, “Saturday Sun,” is like taking a ride in an 80s time capsule to the present age (complete with spaceship sounds). Finn states his operative: “And the game is still on/ And the waiting is done… It’s all about to change.” Poppy, upbeat, and with a twist of electronica, it seems a fresh wind has blown thru the singer’s heart and there’s joy in his song.

“Archer’s Arrows” keeps the pace nicely, showcasing one of the drawing factors of this band: Neil Finn’s sincerely clear voice. This also seems a tune that has risen from the ashes of life and experience, of renewed determination: “We hope to rise again”; dramatic piano flairs are a nice touch.

Songs like “Amsterdam,” save for its sympathetic ending, and “Either Side Of The World,” save for an interesting space-out three-fourths of the way thru, are on the forgettable side, but might make a good soundtrack whilst getting your hair done in a trendy salon.

For Crowded House, it seems ballads are a strong suit, which songs like “Falling Dove,” housed midway in the lineup, prove prettily; a Beatles influence is felt in a pounding piano solo at the bridge, and a small guitar bit near the end reminds me of “Blackbird singing in the dead of night… You were only waiting for this moment to arise.” “Isolation” is another pleaser, with a surprising solo by Finn’s wife; grungy guitar and some yelling end things. With its sentimental piano and slow jazzy drumbeat, “Even If” also shines: “Even though I know you’re wrong, I can never win/ Disappointment I must bear, underneath my grin.”

“Twice If You’re Lucky” might make it to the radio; at the opening notes I was ready to sing “Shout, shout, let it all out” to the tune of Tears for Fears, but then things rolled along in another direction, optimistically speaking of chances and “These are times that come/ Only once in your life/ Or twice if you’re lucky.”

“Elephants” serves as the swan song for the album. Heart is poured into it, and it slowly waltzes you to silence, “Sweet dreams, make waves, find bliss.” Neil Finn has had his musical say, and it seems to echo the sentiment of his hit single, “Don’t Dream It’s Over”: “But you’ll never see the end of the road/ While you’re traveling with me.”

–Holly Etchison, August 9, 2010