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Crowded House
El-Camel's Ratings:

owen adams


Antipodean 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 also feel.

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 band.

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.

michael white

Crowded House: Afterglow - Capitol CD-Album 724352480425


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