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|1. Nobody Wants To|
|2. Don't Stop Now|
|3. She Called Up|
|4. Say That Again|
|5. Pour Le Monde|
|6. Even A Child|
|7. Heaven That I'm Making|
|8. A Sigh|
|9. Silent House|
|10. English Trees|
|11. Walked Her Way Down|
|12. Transit Lounge|
|13. You Are The One To Make Me Cry|
|14. People Are Like Suns|
Time On Earth is Crowded House's first new studio album in 14 years, and features original, founding members Neil Finn and Nick Seymour, along with former member Mark Hart and new drummer Matt Sherrod.
Finn and Seymour recorded 10 songs at Finn's Roundhead Studios in Auckland with their producer Ethan Johns (Ryan Adams, Kings of Leon, Rufus Wainwright) and old friend Ricky Gooch alternating on drums. Though several songs, such as "Nobody Wants To," "A Sigh," "You Are The One to Make Me Cry," and "Silent House" (which Finn co-wrote with the Dixie Chicks), deal with loss, the intense, emotional balladry is balanced by plenty of the band's signature high-spirited buoyancy, such as the lead-off single "Don't Stop Now," the navigation-themed "She Called Up," the strummy "Even A Child" (co-written with Finn's friend, former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr), and the humorous "Transit Lounge" (which features a sample Seymour made 10 years ago of a PA announcer at a German airport). "Those four songs add a kind of exuberance, which I think is characteristic of Crowded House," Finn says. "We were feeling pretty good about things and wanted to capture it on the record."
Recorded in February 2007 at London's RAK Studios with famed producer Steve Lillywhite (U2, Talking Heads, Peter Gabriel), those upbeat songs feature guitarist/keyboardist Mark Hart, who joined Crowded House in 1992 ("We asked him the proverbial question: 'We're putting the band back together, are you in?'"), and former Beck drummer Matt Sherrod, a new addition whom Finn praises for bringing pizzazz and energy to the proceedings.
Time On Earth, which is layered with rich textures of guitar, piano, Wurlitzer, horns, touches of Hammond organ and sitar, and plenty of stellar harmonies, should earn the band new listeners who may have missed them the first time around. It will certainly delight the legions of long-time fans who've loved Crowded House ever since they formed in Melbourne in 1985.
Fourteen years, a live CD/DVD, some solo albums, and one tragic suicide after Crowded House's last release comes this highly anticipated reunion. Singer/songwriter Neil Finn and bassist Nick Seymour reunited after the 2005 death of drummer Paul Hester, brought in a new member and two producers (Ethan Johns and Steve Lillywhite) to replace longtime cohort Mitchell Froom, and the impressive result is a logical and overdue addition to the band's previous four albums. Finn's knack for a melodic ballad remains firmly in place as Time on Earth coasts on his dreamy voice and introspective, hook-laden pop choruses. However, this is a more reflective collection that requires a few spins to fully reveal its charms. Finn co-writes "Even a Child" with Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr, and that and the frisky "She Called Up" are the most buoyant tracks on this predominantly pensive disc. Finn has generally shaded towards a darker edge and this hour-long set might have benefited from more of the lighter touch he applies to "Transit Lounge," a song enhanced by Beth Rowley's lovely and startling wordless vocals along with jazzy electric piano and even airport sound effects. Strings, sitar, and intricate production add subtle elements that bolster the timeless musical qualities Finn has always reveled in. The ominous, even brooding "Silent House," a co-write with all three Dixie Chicks, is another highlight that sounds like nothing either has done before as it floats along on fuzz guitar and hurdy-gurdy, both courtesy of Johns. Trimming some weaker cuts would have made this a more focused listen, but Time on Earth is a worthy successor to Crowded House's existing catalog--a high compliment indeed. --Hal Horowitz