Crowded House picks up the pieces

By Gus Bode

Crowded House “Time on Earth” Release Date: July 10, 2007 Record Label: EMI/ Parlophone

The numb, gnawing heartache of having lost a loved one, the painful crawl of the mourning process and the bittersweet glow of hope rising like the sun after a long darkness just cannot be done justice on paper.

“Time on Earth,” the newest pop gem from Australian group Crowded House, comes close to perfectly encapsulating these indefinable feelings. Spanning 14 songs in nearly one hour, the album is an extended meditation on melancholy and subdued beauty.


For Crowded House, the pain is real.

The band had been broken up for more than 10 years when in 2005 drummer Paul Hester took his own life. The remnants of the band came together to ease each other’s pain through company and music. What had been a third solo album for bandleader Neil Finn slowly evolved into what is now “Time on Earth.”

The band has embraced a feeling in this new decade that is altogether different than any of their previous releases as a band. Where the earlier albums were playful and endearingly slipshod, “Time on Earth” is serious and slick, bearing no illusions as to the reason for its own existence.

It is heavy on acoustic balladry, particularly in “English Trees” and the tearful album closer “People are like Suns.” Finn’s voice is as affectionate as The Verve’s Richard Ashcroft, only far more delicate and subtle. His fluid melodies are the highlight of the album, never failing to tug at the listener’s heart.

Even such relatively upbeat moments as “She Called Up” have a streak of mournfulness running through them. Co-written by ex-Smith Johnny Marr, this brief number bears a disturbingly dissonant “La la la” hook that offsets its almost mockingly chipper arrangement.

Taken as a whole, the album is tough to handle. Sadness can breed superb catharsis, but beyond the 35-minute mark, it all starts to feel overly maudlin. Over-the-top strings in “You Are The Only One To Make Me Cry” only add to the problem, making it difficult for the listener to work up any more tears.

With a little pruning, though, the album could be a masterpiece. The soaring “Nobody Wants To,” moody “Say That Again” and sing-along “Heaven That I’m Making” are stand-alone tours de forces. Listening to this album is a nostalgic reminder of what made the power pop geniuses of the 1960s and 1970s, from the Byrds to Big Star so great.


Crowded House is not the same band it was before its breakup in 1995. That band passed away when Paul Hester did. With “Time On Earth,” though, it has picked up the pieces of the past and made something new and just as beautiful.

Daily Egyptian reporter Justin Leverett can be reached at 536- 3311 ext. 275 or [email protected].