Crowded House is the kind of band that now has to labour under the dreaded ‘heritage act’ tag, a status that inevitably leads to an album as crassly named and then marketed as The Very Very Best Of Crowded House. While the group has only just finished promoting their really rather good new studio album Intriguer, their record label has released this compilation to celebrate the House’s 25th anniversary. Apparently Neil Finn and co had nothing to do with the track listing or marketing, making this album one of those to be filed under ‘difficult to review’.
For an album littered with modern pop classics such as Fall At Your Feet, Don’t Dream It’s Over, Private Universe and Distant Sun, to name just a few, it is difficult to come across as churlish. But then that is the great advantage of a heritage act to record companies – having bashed out a string of timeless songs in their heyday, the gravy train will keep on rolling until the day consumers stop purchasing music.
Assuming you are an honest-to-God, money-paying music fan, then unfortunately the recommendation here is to repair with indecent haste to Crowded House’s 1996 compilation Recurring Dream. Although the new compilation pleasingly fits in two tracks from 2007’s Time On Earth, it also loses World Where You Live, When You Come, I Feel Possessed and Into Temptation from the earlier album.
The absence of the latter track speaks volumes about the hurried cash-in nature of this album. One of Neil Finn’s absolute masterpieces, a tender, candid account of the temptations of infidelity, it’s quiet majesty is overlooked for the more catchy, sing along side of Crowded House.
It’s possibly why Finn doesn’t perform the song that often in concert anymore. Like most heritage acts Crowded House has to cater to their 30/40 something fan base who are worse than teenagers for wanting instant gratification, hence the prominent placement of the likes of ‘hits’ Weather With You and It’s Only Natural at the start of this compilation.
Perhaps Finn and Crowded House have never really been granted the critical respect they deserve. Certain sections of the media have labelled them as a soft sell ever since their big hit in 1986 with Don’t Dream It’s Over, the kind of music the average indie kid’s mum and dad didn’t mind because they could whistle it. This kind of reductive musical tribalism is, of course, no longer relevant in our brave new digital world, although Finn’s studied craftsmanship does still attract a certain kind of music fan.
As the kind of band who will sell plenty of copies of this compilation if it is plugged well enough in supermarkets, the Very Very Best Of will do enough business to warrant their record company’s shameless opportunism. More discerning listeners should pick up the earlier compilation along with albums such as 1993’s Together Alone and the aforementioned Intriguer.