There is always a reason to celebrate when Neil Finn puts out new musical fare in whatever iteration he decides. This time he is releasing new material with Crowded House, the band that has always been his flagship musical outlet.
In the last 11 years, Finn has participated in many collaborations, including a stint in Fleetwood Mac and numerous solo and semi-solo ventures. He is now returning with his latest version of Crowded House Dreamers Are Waiting, the follow up to 2010’s Intriguer. Once again, Finn & Co. creates their own world in which they celebrate the good and bad of life and offer up Finn’s legendary song-crafting to enjoy.
Finn original idea when envisioning Dreamers Are Waiting was to look for fresh approaches and veer from old formulas. The worldwide pandemic would force the band to finish the almost completed album remotely and hold back the release date. Additionally, the makeup of Crowded House would change out as long time Crowdie multi-instrumentalist Mark Hart would cycle out and Finn’s sons, frequent live collaborators, would cycle into the band. Legacy Crowded House producer Mitchell Froom would return to production duties and become a band member, taking over keyboard and guitar duties. What would result from swings and roundabouts is a unique recording that takes on examining topics both worldly and close to the heart. Presenting something original yet reminding the listener of the elements that make Crowded House so endearing. The result is certainly justification for Finn to have reinvented his proudest creation.
Dreamers Are Waiting begins with the drifting dreamlike “Bad Times Good”. Ever the song, craftsman Finn turns this track into a lesson on the need to turn lemons into lemonade while acknowledging the difficulty of making that happen. The track is a great opener and holds all the trademark elements that make a Crowded House selection. Finn’s voice, one of the most affecting in music, carries the listener on the journey through his experiences with confidence and maturity. “Playing With Fire” displays the quirky side that has always existed on Crowded House discs. Here supported by a funky accompaniment Finn examines dealing with age and societal change while referencing isolation and Covid and how the unexpected can change our lives and the world.
“To The Island” is up-tempo, rollicking fun and is illuminated by Finn’s long-lasting marriage. Finn suggests that couples and families make their own islands, and that is really all one needs. The track is so enjoyable because you can hear the fun everyone had recording the selection. There is a sense that it is the knowledge that there is an island of safety that pulls an individual through the hard parts of living. That island for Finn is his wife, family and physically New Zealand. This theme is followed up by the charming track, “Sweet Tooth, " which gently scolds the listener for getting caught up in 1st world problems instead of being happy with what you have because others have so little. The track sonically offers excellent guitar work and a hint of Split Enz pop sensibilities. Crowdie fans will love this track.
“Whatever You Want” warns against opportunists who will tell you what you want to hear to get what they want. Throughout the song, Finn identifies professional victims and charismatic leaders who are all façade. The sonic is an amalgam of really early Crowded House and Split Enz with a fantastic bass.
Neil Finn’s son Liam Finn wrote both “Show Me The Way” and “Goodnight Everyone”, displaying apples don’t fall far from the tree. These two songs are simply brilliant and show great range. “Show Me the Way” is more introspective and ethereal, “Goodnight Everyone” reminds me of Crowded House’s work on Temple of Low Men, especially the track “In The Lowlands”. The harmonies and the sonic atmosphere is spectacular and makes this one of my favourite tracks. “Too Good For This World” is exactly that. If this song had come out in an earlier musical era, it would soar on the charts. It is brilliantly constructed and hooks the listener. Finn says it best, “I must be too good for this world,” indeed.
The last three tracks display a senior statesman of songwriting waxing lyrical about; his wife of many years, their marriage, love as the foundation of living and the need to dig deeper than the shallow surface of existence. The standout of this triad is “Real Life Woman” is a heartfelt tribute to his wife, Sharon, who has been with him through thick and thin. “Love Isn’t Hard at All” continues the theme. Finn stresses love isn’t hard if you open yourself up to expressing it to your nearest and dearest along with the world at large. Impressive drums and enthusiasm sell the track. “Deeper Down” closes the recording and is classic Crowded House sonics. Finn always finishes Crowded House albums with a real winner, and this time is no different. The track and the album are sublime.
The quality of this release is ever-present as each track is engaging and intelligent. The sonics are filled with familiar yet unique touches, harmonies that soar, the classic Maori strum of Crowded House legend and solid accompaniment, all making for a memorable experience. The songs get under your skill with each repeated pass.
Dreamers Are Waiting will be welcomed with open arms by Crowded House fans but is also a winning release for anyone interested in music that is something more than the latest studio fad. The album is precision-crafted, nuanced and pays off in the end. Crowded House has always acknowledged the world and its dark corners and offers a refuge if for only a 45 min period from the world’s discord.
Each recording from Finn offers the latest communiqué of all the things he has learned since the last release. 11 years is almost too long to wait for Crowded House’s “Comeback”, but Dreamers Are Waiting justifies the wait.