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angst: New Zealand lambs to the altar of fame; world wide weather; a lasting
legacy; 1996 all good things come to an end - patience wearing Finn. Now comes
the Afterglow to their melodic slow burn. This collection of rare and
previously unreleased songs has been compiled to tie up the loose ends - and
in response to the pestering of devotees. And devotees is the only word… Crowded
House inspired intense affinity from couples at that certain stage of a relationship
when the pleasure and pain ratio can be measured equally. And from singles seeking
membership of this exquisite state but prepared to wallow a little in the melancholy
of the meantime.
Crowded House travelled
well with the White, wine bar crowd. Which doesn't completely explain the broad
appeal of Neil Finn's richly sensitive vocals. 'I Am In Love' opens proceedings
with a joyful, exultant cry to the heightened intoxication of the best drug
in the world. As always there is still a hint of sadness overshadowing even
the happiest of moments. This is a direct result of a voice which can soar while
retaining a desolate beauty redolent of a contemporary Everly Brothers, whom
they strongly resemble on 'You Can Touch' - but most importantly here you can
The band are at
their most unconvincing in rock(ier) mode… they're nice boys - too polite: the
house ain't rockin'; there was too much time spent in the study and not enough
in the dirty confines of the basement. Lend a dubious ear to 'Dr Livingstone'
- one presumes the need to deliver this turgid tale is an example of the white
man's burden; ditto the plodding stadium funk-edged 'Left Hand' where the right
hand genuinely appears to be ignorant. However, 'Help Is Coming' displays all
their strengths: wistful harmonies, a lightly applied guitar - delicately reverbed;
gleaming: optimism and world weary sensitivity sublimely mixed.
There is always
a reason why some tracks are left over from an album session… you can go too
far seeing the good in everything. 'My Telly's Gone Bung' is complete throwaway,
self-indulgent toss that should have been switched off at birth. It suffers
too much from remote control. 'Private Universe' is the opposite on this uneven
archive: it shines with a transcendence; a glorious combination of the intensely
intimate/universal. It's the hub of the tensions explicit in their finest compositions
where you feel they're singing just for you. 'Time Immemorial?'… mmm, 'fraid
not - just mid-brow folksy meets the mid-range of the heart. 'Recurring Dream'
is their first love - a track from The Mullanes: the earliest line-up of the
Trying to pin down
elusive emotions and the wounding passage of time has given much flesh to the
ballads of a Finn man, and is a noble aim in itself - arising from his quietly
ambitious exactitude. Unfortunately Afterglow lets us view too many unfinished,
cheaply decorated rooms of the House to be entirely convincing, or essential.
Though the Crowd are still big enough in the desperate for another tour of the
building corner to prevent the shutters being raised just yet.
Afterglow - Capitol CD-Album 724352480425
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