When I heard in 2006 that Neil Finn's planned next solo album was going to be a Crowed House album, I was a little disappointed. Owning CH albums, Split Enz albums, and the two Finn Brothers albums, I ultimately find Neil Finn's solo material (_Try Whistling This_ & _One Nil_) to be his best work. However, since this is Neil Finn we're talking about--easily one of pop music's best songwriters--regardless of what name was going to be on the album, it would likely be up to par with his previous work. However, stacked up against such phenomenal post-CH work, _Time on Earth_ does ultimately dissapoint a little bit.
Lyrically, the suicide of original drummer Paul Hester looms over nearly the entire album. From the beautiful opener "Nobody Wants To" to the Split Enz-like "She Called Up" to the plaintive "Silent House," Neil Finn is clearly mourning within this material. The first half of the album is just as good as anything Crowded House has done, with "Pour Le Monde" being another stunning, melancholy work of songwriting genius that fans have come to expect from Finn ("he imagines the world/as the angel ascending/like the ghost of a man/who is tied up to the chair/and he tries to believe/that his life has a meaning/with his hand on his heart"). Co-written by Johnny Marr, "Even A Child" is pure pop rock CH at its best. About midway through the album, the momentum slows down a bit. "Heaven That I'm Making," sounds like something that might've made it onto _One Nil_, and while it slinks along at a comfortable pace, it fails to make much of an impression. It is then followed by the pretty, but again, slightly lackluster "A Sigh." Along with "Silent House," "A Sigh" sounds like something more from the "Rain" movie score that Finn was involved with a few years ago than a CH or Finn album--very subtle, low-key, lo-fi offerings. "English Trees" continues the pretty, plaintive, reflective mood that dominates the middle of the album before jumping back into the upbeat, mysterious "She Walked Her Way Down" ("and i know what the answer is/but i'm happy to be here tonight/and when you're in the moment/everything you want is right"). "Transit Lounge" sounds like the experimental side of Neil Finn' solo work and is one of the best, freshest sounding songs on the album. Closing out the album are two more low-key and subtle songs--"You Are The One To Make Me Cry" and "People Are Like Suns." The former is one of the most beautiful pieces that Neil Finn has ever written. It's slow, seductive, melencholy, haunting--at times, it sounds like Finn is crooning the song in a dimly lit lounge full with cigarette smoke, and at other times, it sounds like he is literally on the verge of tears. Closers on albums that Finn is involved with--"Together Alone," "Addicted," "Into The Sunset," "Gentle Hum"--are usually breathtakingly beautiful. "People Are Like Suns" does not match the heights achieved by those songs, but it comes close, ending the album with the "appreciate every moment" theme that is displayed on this CH album in the wake of Paul Hester's death: "better take all the love that you got in a single hand...." People are like suns..."they come and they go...."
_Time On Earth_ is another great album to add to your Crowded House collection. It's a far more subtle offering than _Woodface_ or _Together Alone_, but it rewards the listener more and more with repeated listenings. Fans of Finn's prior work will not be disappointed.