Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Cross Blogination #8 Crowded House - Together Alone

It struck me that apart from our 'jazz interlude' Paul and I hadn't really strayed from rock. So I thought I'd throw something different into the mix and I'm pretty sure we're gonna get two very different reviews.

Crowded House were a bit of a band for me after I was introduced to them by Miss F about twenty years ago. This album came out in 1993, a couple of years after we split, but I think it says much for the band that they still evoke memories of visiting Australia when 'Woodface' was actually the album that soundtracked that trip.

What separates 'Together Alone' from the three earlier Crowded House albums is the production. It just sounds more solid and like every song, apart from one (more on that later), was a labour of love for the band.

There's so much care and attention to detail here and the use of Maori instruments throughout gives the whole album a dense quality and an exotic other worldly beauty. It is also by far the best lyrically, as much as you may love their earlier singles, this is a better written, more complete piece. Neil Finn's voice is at its best on 'Together Alone' too, he really appears to be feeling every song, partly surely do to his growing maturity as a song writer at the time and finally leaving his elder brother behind him in the talent stakes.

It's an album about being in love, falling in love and how intoxicating and overwhelming that can be. Not highly original in subject matter and it would be hard to argue that Crowded House tackled they're music in an original way but when they were at their peak, as they are here, they were the best at what they did by some margin.

Lets get the miss steps out of the way and the reasons that this album isn't a five star classic. 'Black and White Boy' is so dreadful I only listened to it for about the third time this week. I had 'Together Alone' in the car, taped onto an old C90 cassette, and I left this song off when I transferred it. Woeful. Second to last song 'Skin Feeling' is something of an attempt at a rockier track from 'Crowded House' (as is Black and White Boy) and it just doesn't gell amongst the other work here.

So bin those two songs and what are you left with? Velvet. Honestly it's like having your ears rubbed gently with the stuff. 'Kare Kare', the first track, was also where the album was recorded. There's a chilled, almost drugged out vibe to the song that makes you feel like your on a beach somewhere at a party, smoking something you shouldn't.

'In Your Command' strives to be one of those troublesome 'Crowded House rock songs' but is saved by one of the most beautiful, loved up, choruses they ever produced. What Neil Finn was always good at (probably still is) was telling a story in songs and 'Nails In My Feet' is a great example of this. Clearly this was a man who'd discovered someone pretty special and that joy of being in love shines through this record.

'Fingers of Love' has a ghostly erotic quality to it and 'Pineapple Head' which follows it is one of my favourite Crowded House songs. It's just so damn uplifting.


I will play you like a shark
and I'll clutch at your heart
I'll come flying like a spark
to enflame you



'Locked Out' is the one rockier track that works in the context of the album but what follows is for me, Crowded House's masterpiece. 'Private Universe'. Lord knows what it's about, just seek it out, it's beautiful and mystifying.

I could go on about every track, but I won't. I love this album, it takes me back to happy times from when I bought it and from my earlier trip to Oz. It is not in anyway a break up album. It's an album to listen to with the Mrs's over a bottle of red. She'll probably like it more than you will to start with but you'll get there too. I promise. Just skip 'Black and White Boy'. Of course you may be the 'Mrs', in which case buy the album skip 'Black and White Boy' and wait for the pair of you to start harmonising along with the choruses. If you're single I'd probably leave it until your not.

****
Rip: Private Universe, Kare Kare, Together Alone.


Now go see what Paul (@formulaic666) thought of it. Blog on the Motorway. I'm betting it doesn't get four stars.