Crowded House
Dreamers Are Waiting


3.6
great

Review

by Rowan5215 STAFF
June 5th, 2021 | 39 replies


Release Date: 06/04/2021 | Tracklist

Review Summary: History never repeats.

There's a homely warmth that seems to glow off the songs of Neil Finn that feels for all the world like a hug from a father. Call it nostalgia from a distant childhood, if you like – god knows I spent enough time sat in front of faded TV sets, watching the videos for "Don't Dream It's Over" and "Something So Strong" and "It's Only Natural" until they were burned onto the back of my eyes. I will never forget an innocent afternoon watching Neil Finn play for Paul Hester - sadly departed by means of suicide - and getting my first inkling of what loss and grief were, still without any idea of how hard the world can be, with no conception of mortgages and pandemics and student debt. The man's music just makes me feel like a kid again, not to mention probably everyone else raised in Australia or New Zealand before the turn of the millennium: a feeling so priceless it couldn't possibly be quantified or put in words. But surely that's not all there is, after decades and side projects and two bands with enviable discographies - surely, there's more?

I know there is, just as surely as I don't know how to explain it to someone who might be reading this review with a faint memory of liking "Don't Dream It's Over" and no other idea who Neil Finn is. Outside of NZ – his own birthplace, and that of art-rockers-turned-new-wavers Split Enz – and Australia – birthplace and endplace, more than once, of Crowded House – Finn's fanbase is small enough to reasonably called a cult following. We certainly earn the title: everyone in this little circle I've talked to, from oldheads still grumbling about when the Enz went pop to the newest converts, pretty much agree that Neil Finn is one of the greatest songwriters of his generation, if not truly the best. His voice seems to ring out with perfect clarity, plain but clear as a mountain stream, summoning an endless tide of melodies and sharp, simple, gorgeous words. There was a time when diamonds just seemed to pour, fully formed, from Neil Finn's hands and land sparkling in the sunlight.

But history never repeats, as the saying goes, so we find ourselves with Dreamers Are Waiting three goddamn decades after Crowded House's magnum opus, Woodface. It's also been eleven years since their last release, the fragmented Intriguer: where that album swung too many ways and buried its winners in overproduction, Dreamers Are Waiting is the polar opposite. This is functionally an exceedingly safe and pleasant album, written and mixed to provide maximum comfort. You don't have to reach too far to find the reason for this release - it's a warm hug to a world that's hurting, enveloping all of us in that same warmth I described at the outset. ("My wife is wild in quarantine", Neil hilariously sings in "Playing With Fire", before adopting a very Crowded House comforting tone with "pretend it's alright, we'll make it with time"). Those lockdown blues permeate the album on every level, from remotely-conducted recording and mixing sessions, to the decision to refashion Crowded House as an explicitly familial project. Talented Finn sons Elroy and Liam are on drums and guitar/keys respectively, with the legendary Nick Seymour still on bass, but resident American/multi-talented one-man band Mark Hart has sadly been left out. It's an understandable decision, given that Neil's rapport with his sons and Seymour (who may as well be family after 30+ years in the group) is easy and instinctual. But it stings a little to see a vital part of the more complex, layered era of Crowded House stripped away, leaving it hard not to feel Hart's absence on lesser, skeletal tracks like "Whatever You Want".

Finn has spoken frankly about making another Crowded House album because the time felt right, because he too wanted the comfort and familiarity of his old band. This goes a long way to explaining why this reserved, simple album bears the title over the more eclectic Dizzy Heights, reassigned as a Neil solo album partway through recording. It's actually not too difficult to draw a line from Dreamers... to Out of Silence, the stunning chamber folk excursion Neil released in 2017. Both luxuriate extensively in the sounds of the talented Finn family, even scoring co-writes from a borderline-reclusive Tim Finn; both look out at a damaged, complex world around them from a safe familial space. But Out of Silence was obsessed with quiet, the silence between the notes almost as important as the richly textured music itself. Dreamers Are Waiting is Crowded fuckin' House, man - a name that carries not only comfort but the burden of expectation to longtime listeners.

The need for some powerhouse pop does pay off in part; the funky "To an Island" and strutting, horns-led "Playing With Fire" are clear early standouts, while the bluesy "Sweet Tooth" and gentle synthpop "Love Isn't Hard at All" are destined to be deep cuts which roar to life at live shows. And as ever, Finn's innate gift to match suggestive storytelling with an indelible melody soars to life on a slow burn track like "Show Me the Way". In between these modes is where the album slightly falters: casual listeners will probably have trouble distinguishing between mid-tempo plodders like "Goodnight Everyone" and "Too Good For this World" for several listens, and on the Crowded House closer scale, "Deeper Down" falls significantly short. It's a funny thing that the sheer consistency of Neil Finn's songwriting can almost work against him. The man has been pumping out classics since at least 1978 and has barely ever stumbled on a dud, but knowing he's capable of writing some of the greatest songs of all time ("Better Be Home Soon", to throw a dart at a very enviable wall) or even excellent late-career fare ("English Trees" or "Falling Dove"), can make the pleasant affability of Dreamers Are Waiting start to verge on nondescript.

These are more than nitpicks, sure, but a little less than album-wrecking holes in the flyscreen. Taken on its own terms – as an album dreamed up by a family unit, jamming in a familiar space while the world raged around them – Dreamers... is largely great and lovable in its faults. By this point in time, Neil Finn should be a grizzled elder statesman of the music scene, popping his head up now and then to soundtrack an obscure theatre show (which is functionally a description of how elder brother Tim operates these days). But unusually, brilliantly, the man refuses to disappear. Every three years at the most, he's back with another album under some project name, packed full with brilliant gems of observation and melody, whether the backing is soft rock, chamber pop or even ambient arty contemplation (as in 2018's unjustly underseen Lightsleeper with Liam Finn). Neil Finn deserves all our accolades for sheer reliability, if nothing else: pop legends are supposed to burn bright and flicker into black, but he remains a bastion of simplicity and comforting warmth, which is really all the acclaim Dreamers Are Waiting needs to be accorded.



Recent reviews by this author
CZARFACE and MF DOOM Super What?Sharon Van Etten epic Ten
Brockhampton Roadrunner: New Light, New MachineThe Antlers Green to Gold
Julien Baker Little OblivionsHayley Williams FLOWERS for VASES / descansos
user ratings (10)
3.5
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
June 5th 2021


45219 Comments

Album Rating: 3.6

good album. playing with fire slaps and it will make you feel warm things in your belly, probably

DrGonzo1937
Staff Reviewer
June 5th 2021


16939 Comments


Excellent review, my man. Sounds interesting, I’ll get on it later today

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
June 5th 2021


45219 Comments

Album Rating: 3.6

cheers gonz!

zakalwe
June 5th 2021


34107 Comments


Will give this a listen for old times sake. Classic band.

bloc
June 5th 2021


65684 Comments


Say what, I thought these guys broke up forever

Digging: Rochelle Jordan - Play With The Changes

zakalwe
June 5th 2021


34107 Comments


They always come crawling back for a couple of quid

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
June 5th 2021


45219 Comments

Album Rating: 3.6

there hasn't been an official breakup since Intriguer really. like I said in the review Dizzy Heights was a Crowded House project until fairly late in the game. the deciding factor between making a Crowded House album and a Neil Finn solo album these days is pretty much "Neil flips a coin" lol

JesperL
Contributing Reviewer
June 5th 2021


3085 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

cool, didn't know this was coming out/band was still around! woodface is one of my all time fav albums so will give this a shot and probably at least somewhat vibe w it

Digging: The Buildings - Heaven is a Long Exhale

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
June 5th 2021


45219 Comments

Album Rating: 3.6

this is no Woodface but to be fair that album is one in a million

zakalwe
June 5th 2021


34107 Comments


Blimey. This is lovely stuff. Surprising.

Jethro42
June 5th 2021


16520 Comments


New Crowded House? Yessss

Digging: The Tea Club - Quickly Quickly Quickly

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
June 6th 2021


45219 Comments

Album Rating: 3.6

#1 in Australia, the boys still got it!

SowingSeason
Moderator
June 6th 2021


38087 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

First time listener and this is sounding great so far. Excellent review (do I still have to say that every time, or is it just implied at this point? I mean jeez, I'm incapable of reading any of your reviews without feeling inadequate)

Digging: Bruno Pernadas - Private Reasons

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
June 6th 2021


45219 Comments

Album Rating: 3.6

you flatter me sowing, but if I can parlay that admiration into convincing you to listen to Woodface I'll be a happy man

SowingSeason
Moderator
June 6th 2021


38087 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This one is so immediately enjoyable. It's familiar in a way, but it doesn't lack personality. If Woodface is their big career achievement, then you can bet I'd be checking it out anyway after this.

nolerthebowler
June 6th 2021


9101 Comments


Woodface rips

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
June 6th 2021


45219 Comments

Album Rating: 3.6

@sowing it's comfortably one of the best pop albums of all time. I mean I have a very personal attachment to it which I clumsily laid out in my Woodface review. but even if I didn't I'd still claim it was

JesperL
Contributing Reviewer
June 6th 2021


3085 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

this was neat! super 3.5, mostly just happy they're still making good music

and yeah woodface is bae, 'she goes on' is one of the most beautiful/heartbreaking songs ever made

zakalwe
June 6th 2021


34107 Comments


Given this a few listens. It’s light, lovely, nice.

SowingSeason
Moderator
June 6th 2021


38087 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

To the Island makes me smile ear to ear



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





FAQ // STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2019 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy