Crowded House: Intriguer (Universal)

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Crowded House: Either Side of the World
Crowded House: Intriguer (Universal)

Many years ago, when I interviewed Neil Finn about his solo career (here) post-Crowded House I reminded him that he'd once told me he felt bands had a natural lifespabn.

He said at that time he felt CH didn't have quite as long as he wanted . . . which may explain their second coming.

This time out, with the same band as for Time on Earth three years ago, CH seem a little more taut and the shorter, economic Intriguer is the better for it.

It is an album which doesn't really surprise, but that is hardly a negative: Finn's songwriting is as pointed as ever (themes of religion, discomfort, other places and odd encounters) and there are the requisite guitar-psychedelics where required.

There's no Private Universe here, but Archers Arrows is close enough. And Falling Dove starts in pastoral-McCartney mode but steadily kicks up a notch or two in emotion and volume. (As does Isolation, with wife Sharon also on vocals).

There are also those beguiling songs (Either Side of the World, the moodily seductive Isolation) which you might skip first time around but return to for their engaging melodies and sonic beauties.

At this point in his long career is it remarkable that Finn's melodic gifts haven't abandoned him (the pop blast of the opener Saturday Sun serves notice to young pretenders, the guitar crank of Inside Out) and he manages to pack a lot of musical moods and information into songs which rarely stretch past the 4.30 mark.

And Elephants -- with pedal steel and piano -- is the ideal coda with its dream-state ruminations. 

So another Crowded House album to embrace and inhabit, and if it lacks the obvious one-punch two-punch hits it still hangs together as an album of the old style (10 different songs, vinyl length running time) where hooks and phrases pull you back repeatedly.

The second act of Crowded House just got a whole lot more interesting.

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