Crowded House
(Capitol 79355)

A personal reclamation of early 90s pop continues with a recent repurchase of Woodface – my original copy was stolen in the Great Thievery of '99. And speaking of which, my script for "The Great Thievery of '99" is still languishing in preproduction hell. After quickly discovering in a pitch meeting that the tail end of the 90s are still considered untouchably uncool, I panicked & desperately changed the setting to 1499 and was thusly held to it. Now all the dotcom references probably don't pack the punch they once did, but you gotta relish any scene where King Ferdinand goes snowboarding for the first time. Uh, right?

OK, back to this century. Wait, make that last century. 1989-1991 were 3 very slick years for pop. Jordan: The Comeback, Like a Prayer, Love Deluxe, Spilt Milk. The songwriting was often super strong, but there's such a digital sheen to nearly everything from that period, as opposed to the current analog fetish that still goes largely unchecked. Woodface and its relatively earthy feel, with Mitchell Froom/Tchad Blake at the production/mixing helm, is true to its name and still sounds remarkably fresh, and even more surprisingly, much less quirky sounding than it did back in the day. Maybe I've been listening to too much 1973 recently …

Neil Finn is held in high-esteem in pop-songwriting-nerd circles, and rightfully so – the guy's gift with melody is pretty astounding. Actually, pondering the rest of his catalog just now, the songwriting stays really strong throughout the Crowded House canon, this album included. That said, Woodface is usually misaligned by fans (and band alike) with the writing additions of brother Tim.

Tim's no songwriting slouch either (see his underappreciated self-titled solo album for starters), and musically fits in like a glove, but I gotta fall in agreement. Every one of his songs on the album is comparatively skippable & seem like relative throwaways to the quiet majesty of "Whispers And Moans" or "Fall At Your Feet". Granted first single "Chocolate Cake" still heavily divides – clever anti-American-indulgence jab, or embarassing fumbling mess? I camp in a different tent with each listen. Small missteps aside, program your CD accordingly, and you'll be treated to some fantastic pop. As for me, I'll let it spin in my CD player as I figure out a way to logically have Henry VIII trying to have Monica Lewinsky beheaded.

Review by Uri Klechizt