Self-Titled, Temple of Low Men, Woodface, Together Alone and Afterglow
In the 11-year span of their first run, Australia’s Crowded House could simply do no wrong, churning out one brilliant album after the next at a rate of just about an album every other year until their split in 1996. The band has since reunited two times – between 2006-2011 and again in 2016 – but it’s hard to find a period as creatively solid as their first four records. Thanks to the cash cow that vinyl has become, labels are digging deep into the vaults to re-release albums to a new generation, or those who have simply gotten rid of their old albums when they were told CDs were the future. Capitol and Universal Records just put out the Crowded House back catalogue on 180-gram vinyl to mark the band’s 30-year anniversary. Along with the first four albums, they also released Afterglow, the 1999 album of rarities. Here’s a run-down of this collection:
‘Crowded House’ – Their 1986 debut remains their biggest seller in the U.S. and the favorite among many here. It was Neil Finn’s first effort after disbanding Split Enz and took a lot of folks by surprise in part because the sound was pretty removed from the New Wave/Art Rock of his last group. Rather Finn and his new band had carefully crafted 10 brilliant pop songs, including a few that would go on to become MTV and radio staples, including “Don’t Dream It’s Over,” “World Where You Live” and “Something So Strong”.
‘Temple of Low Men’ – The follow-up did not sell as many copies as its predecessor in the U.S., but was praised even louder by critics here when it was released in 1988. The songs were in the same vein as the self-titled effort and sound as if they could have all been written at the same time. Among the stand out tracks here are “When You Come,” the feisty “Kill Eye” and the dreamy album closer “Better Be Home Soon.”
‘Woodface’ – Released in ’91, Woodface is arguably their best record. Lyrically and musically there is not one false step on this album from the hard-charging opener, “Chocolate Cake,” with its boozy piano and snarky lyrics to the expansive closer, “How Will You Go,” this is the band at its most comfortable and it pays off with every song here. In between are simply some of the smartest pop songs to come out of that decade, including “Fall at Your Feet” and “Weather With You.” This is as close to a perfect album as a band can make.
‘Together Alone’ – The most experimental release of the batch, Together Alone included the addition of touring guitarist/keyboardist Mark Hart as a full-time member. There are some great songs here, like the frenetic “Been Locked Out” and the mellower “Distant Sun,” but ultimately there are not enough tunes here that live up to the high bar the band set on their first three efforts.
‘Afterglow’ – The band broke up in 1993 and would stay apart for the next 13 years, but their label at the time had enough rarities and outtakes to put together this compilation album in ’99. Of the 13 songs, here, seven come from the Woodface sessions, and there are some gems here like “Recurring Dream” and “Left Hand.” It’s surprising that many of these didn’t find a home on Together Alone. Regardless, the record is still essential for Crowded House fans.