Review: Crowded House, Time on Earth
“Time on Earth” should come with a warning label for people who are more about being fans of the band than fans of the music. It’s nominally a Crowded House album but the reformulated Crowded House only does four of the fourteen songs on the CD. The rest of the tracks on the album were intended to be part of Neil Finn’s next solo album. However, during the course of the recording Finn began to work again with Crowded House’s bass player Nick Seymour and keyboard and guitar player Mark Hart. It went well and they decided to get back together with Matt Sherrod taking the drum chair formerly occupied by Paul Hester.
For fans of the music the paucity of “official” Crowded House numbers won’t be a problem because once again Neil Finn demonstrates the exquisite pop songcraft that was always Crowded House’s greatest strength. Many pop songwriters work hard their entire careers to write the kind of song that Finn can apparently turn out by the handful whenever he wants. Whether he is writing for Crowded House, his solo albums, or the duo albums he’s done with his brother Tim, Finn never fails to produce beautifully crafted pop songs that sink their hooks in either immediately or several listens down the line and never let go. “Time on Earth” is no exception. Whatever it is that ennables people to write great songs, Neil Finn has it to burn.
In 2005 Crowded House’s drummer, Paul Hester, took his own life. His spirit lies softly over this album from the title of the CD, to the cover art of a blue monster gobbling up a man amidst a drab world constucted of empty words (Hester suffered from depression), to the lyrics of so many of the songs, to the simple dedication “In Memory of Paul Hester”. Thus, the album is more somber than what you might expect from previous Crowded House or Neil Finn albums. That’s not to say “Time on Earth” is filled with the droning dirges that regularly appear on CDs by the indie-rock melancholy drama queens (who always seem to be guys – what’s up with that?). It’s not at all, but there is grief here. There is also, if not healing, then at least coming to grips with the loss of an old, loved and difficult friend. By facing the devastating sorrow that suicide almost always leaves in its wake, “Time on Earth” is ultimately a CD that harbors hope for the future most importantly for Finn, Seymour and Hart and also for the many fans of Crowded House who would love to see them give it another try. If you’ve enjoyed Neil Finn in any of his previous incarnations, you will find something to like here.
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