Crowded House
Woodface


5.0
classic

Review

by Rowan5215 STAFF
September 22nd, 2016 | 53 replies


Release Date: 1991 | Tracklist


It's weird to say, but as a child my first experience of death wasn't through a pet or family member, but through Crowded House. I was eight years old when Paul Hester hung himself, and while I don't remember much of it, I do vividly remember the 2005 Arias: Neil playing "Better Be Home Soon" while a tribute to Paul's life played in snatches of footage, a best-of compilation of a human life. That song is about a failed relationship, of course, but because of that moment and because I was so young it is inextricably tied with Paul's death in my mind – almost like Neil wrote it in 1988 about Paul, he just didn't know it at the time. I still feel a strange kind of guilt for reacting so strongly to the death of a person I've never met.

It's a shame to start this review off on such a sombre note, though, because to an extent nothing puts a stupid grin on my face like a Crowded House album. "Something So Strong", "It's Only Natural", "Weather With You" and of course "Don't Dream It's Over" – which I like to call the unofficial Australian anthem, so well embedded it is into the culture of this country – all defined my childhood like bright flashes of inspiration. One of the most surreal experiences of my life thus far was rediscovering my love for this band in 2014 or so – hearing those four songs again like something from a past life and realising that, no, it wasn't just nostalgia, they held up just as well almost 25 years after their release. Digging into their deep cuts to find the hidden gems: the Elliott Smith-esque "Not the Girl You Think You Are", the live version of "Hole in the River" which dives into progressive rock, "Catherine Wheels", "Whispers and Moans", so many more. Listening for the first time, front-to-back, to the crown jewel from one of pop music's most brilliant, and surely most consistent writers: Woodface.

Apparently 8-year-old me missed "Chocolate Cake" the first time around because I have no memories of ever hearing it then, probably because as a single it flopped due to its hilariously satirical anti-American lyrics. As a mostly serious writer up to this point, Neil showed a surprising aptitude for humour on songs like "Chocolate Cake" and "There Goes God" – although it could well have been his brother Tim's influence that gave us sexy God walking a sausage dog. Speaking of Tim, his inclusion on Woodface was a masterstroke on Crowded House's part that would set this album apart from the others. While never as strong a writer or lyricist as his younger brother, Tim is undeniably the better singer and perhaps one of the best ever in pop, his bluesy growl kicking "Chocolate Cake" up a notch on pure adrenaline just as surely as he delicately wavers and cracks over the slow shuffle of "All I Ask". Meanwhile Neil is at the top of his game, penning timeless melodies that stand amongst the very best on "Weather With You" and "Four Seasons In One Day" and deftly navigating the territories of lost love, lost time and fat Americans without ever stepping in a pothole. In fact parts of Woodface show a sensitive, clever lyricist who never quite re-appeared on subsequent albums, as good as they were. "And I will catch the taxi driver/weeping like a wounded beast" has always been a favourite of mine, but there are cryptic traces of poetic genius dotted all around.

The reason I began this review with that anecdote – apart from trying to verbalise a thought that has been floating around in my head, in some form, probably ever since 2005 – is to try and explain the mixed brew of nostalgia, sadness and ecstasy I get listening to a Crowded House album. Even without Hester's death to colour all my perceptions I'm sure something of the same feeling would have remained; there is something to Neil's bare voice, or maybe in his lyrics, that tints supposedly optimistic songs like "Don't Dream It's Over" with the taste of darkness. It is this quality more than anything else that keeps Crowded House enduring even now, long after they should have faded to just a footnote in pop history. And if my breath catches a bit when, in the Hester-penned "Italian Plastic" (an otherwise ridiculously upbeat love song) Neil sings "I bring you rocks and flowers/you say they look pathetic/you pick me up at night/I don't feel pathetic", I take it as a sign that Paul Hester's impact on my life will never be unimportant.



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user ratings (107)
Chart.
4.1
excellent


Comments:Add a Comment 
Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
September 21st 2016


41425 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

tried something different here hope it isn't terrible

Friday13th
September 21st 2016


6673 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Good read! I like this album a lot, but I had no knowledge of a band member's suicide. Sad indeed.

Digging: Darkwater - Human

Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
September 21st 2016


18555 Comments


o fuk

Digging: Avey Tare - Cows On Hourglass Pond

Friday13th
September 21st 2016


6673 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Faaaaaaall at yoooooour feeeeeeeet

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
September 21st 2016


41425 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Yeah Friday it was a sad thing, although after it happened they got back to do Time on Earth which is sorta kinda a tribute to him and I love that album dearly as well so not all was bad



Fall At Your Feet has some of the best backing vocals ever in music, that bridge

Friday13th
September 21st 2016


6673 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

yeah man, I've also been digging Split Enz and meaning to check more from that project.

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
September 21st 2016


41425 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Split Enz are dope, if you can get a hold of the Rootin Tootin Lutin sessions do so, it's the raw demos for Frenzy that pretty much everyone in the band agreed were way better than that actual album



I See Red is an all-time tune

TheSpaceMan
September 21st 2016


11877 Comments


holy fuck good personal piece dude

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
September 21st 2016


41425 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

thanks man it's been brewin' for some time

TheSpaceMan
September 21st 2016


11877 Comments


cheap move not adding a summary so I had to read the whole thing

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
September 21st 2016


41425 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

tl;dr drummer died and I was sad

TheSpaceMan
September 21st 2016


11877 Comments


damn wasted so much time

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
September 21st 2016


41425 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

no SpaceMen were harmed in the making of this review

zakalwe
September 22nd 2016


26721 Comments


8yrs old in 2005. Distressing.
Album is a staple of the 90s but a band was soon to emerge that would change everything.

Digging: OLD - Formula

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
September 22nd 2016


41425 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

you just can't give me this one can you

jtswope
September 22nd 2016


5788 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Excellent write-up for a fantastic album. Lots of memories tied to Neil Finn's music since my dad was into him back in the day. Lots of his stuff playing in the house. Glad I rekindled my appreciation for this band several years later.

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
September 22nd 2016


41425 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

agreed man definitely one of the best rediscoveries I've ever made, and cheers

Judio!
September 22nd 2016


8444 Comments


Never heard of these guys before but this review is so good dude!

TheSpaceMan
September 22nd 2016


11877 Comments


if its so good why are there no pos's?

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
September 22nd 2016


41425 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I'm a fraud y'all caught me out



Judio you're breaking my heart man these guys are legends



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