About the Album:
Crowded House released four albums in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Frontman Neil Finn then ventured out as a solo artist and released “the kaleidoscopic Try Whistling This and the hazy One Nil, both book-ended by albums with his brother Tim.” AMG Year after year went by without new music from Crowded House.
Then tragedy struck in 2005 when Paul Hester, who’d drummed with Finn on all four Crowded House albums and even worked with him back in his Split Enz days – committed suicide. This sparked Neil to reconnect with Nick Seymour, the bassist on all four Crowded House albums. Multi-instrumentalist Mark Hart, who’d worked on Together Alone, also rejoined the fold and what had initially been intended as Finn’s third solo album evolved into the first Crowded House album in fourteen years.
However, this still looks and sounds more like a Neil Finn solo outing than a Crowded House effort. Most of the album was recorded with session musicians – nost notably guitarist Johnny Marr of the Smiths. The team of Finn, Seymour, Hart, and Sherrod only appear on four of the album’s tracks. As a result, “it’s streamlined where their previous albums were ragged, and the most notable element that’s been trimmed is the humor that ran throughout each of their albums.” AMG
“This curtailing of good spirits is an appropriate, even expected, reaction to Hester’s death, and his ghost does linger over the whole of Time on Earth.” AMG Nick Seymour did the cover art, as he did for the previous Crowded House albums, and made it a tribute to Hester. The cover – a direct reference to the sea serpent in Olaus Magnus’ book History of the Northern Peoples, features a blue dragon eating a human, a symbol of the depression that consumed Hester. WK
Of course, Hester’s presence is “most apparent in the subdued, contemplative tone of the album.” AMG Uncut’s Bud Scoppa says the opening cut, Nobody Wants To, sets “the prevailing melancholy mood.” WK Regarding People Are Like Suns, Finn said “part of it is the idea that people burn brightly and then they fade out.” WK Yahoo! Music’s Andy Strickland asserts that English Trees is a “brilliant weaving of a tale of loss and yearning…[that puts him] up there with the very best songwriters working today.” WK
Less direct are songs like Silent House, which Finn initially wrote with the Dixie Chicks prior to Hester’s death. It first appeared on their 2006 album Taking the Long Way, but resurfaces here. The song reads specifically as a reminiscing excursion sparked by going through a grandmother’s belongings after her death from Alzheimer’s. However, on a grander scale it works as a reflection on loss of loved ones in general.
“This mildly mournful vibe is enhanced by the subdued tone of the album.” AMG Billboard’s Jessica Letkemann says, “Gone are the more overtly ‘80s top 40 flourishes.” WK “This set of songs takes its time, relying heavily on ballads and meditative, mid-tempo pop tunes, and even the brighter numbers like She Called Up are far from sprightly.” AMG
“Finn may in a ruminative mode but Time on Earth is not heavy-handed or oppressively sorrowful: it’s contemplative and sweetly melancholy. Given this hushed vibe, it’s not surprising that the album, as a whole, is a bit of a grower, as Finn’s tunes take some time to reveal their gifts. A few songs have an immediate impact; such as the gently propulsive Don’t Stop Now, the snappy, jangly Marr collaboration Even a Child (the closest this record comes to a rocker) and the spacy, tongue-in-cheek Transit Lounge, featuring Beth Rowley as vocal support; but most of these are subtle songs that unfold at their own speed. It may take some time for the songs to catch hold, but once they do, they dig deep, sticking around in the memory like much of Finn’s best work.” AMG
Pour Le Monde (French for “For the World”), one of Finn’s “achingly fine ballads,” WK was inspired by a demonstration Finn observed in Paris against the war on terror. WK Transit Lounge is about the time Finn spent in transit lounges around the world, particularly Singapore and Bangkok. WK
“Even if the best of this album does stand proudly alongside the best of Finn’s music, Time on Earth is still quite unlike any of his other records: strangely, it feels more like a solo album than either of his solo albums, partially because it’s such an introspective work, partially because it sustains a bittersweet tone from beginning to end, whereas his other solo efforts careened wildly between moods.” AMG
While this is “Neil Finn’s show, this also does feel like the work of a band, since there is a warmth here, a feeling of support, that sounds like a group, not a one-man-band. This curious intermingling of sounds and intent makes Time on Earth a haunting yet comforting affair that is quite unique in Neil Finn’s body of work, yet functions as an oddly appropriate, utterly worthy, comeback as Crowded House.” AMG
Notes: The CD was released with a bonus DVD.