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Album review: Crowded House's 'Intriguer'

July 16, 2010 |  7:15 am

Crowdedhouse What purpose does it serve to resurrect a band when all the original members aren't around for the reunion? That's the question raised by Crowded House, the ridiculously infectious New Zealand pop-rock band that released a handful of albums in the ‘80s and ‘90s then disbanded several years before the 2005 suicide of drummer Paul Hester.

Their second collection since coming back together out of solace following that loss makes it clear that to group leader Neil Finn, there's still musical business to finish for this band, in which former adjunct keyboardist Mark Hart has been made a full-fledged member and Matt Sherrod has taken over behind the drums.

Finn's facility with Lennon-McCartney-inspired song craft has typically been instantly engaging; the difference here is that the lyrics are consistently more impressionistic than during the first go-round, and the loveliness of the music sometimes requires a few listens to reveal itself.

“Saturday Sun” and “Archers Arrows” easily fit into the band's repertoire, while “Amsterdam” sounds a tad more atmospheric in its sketch of a day in the land of Vincent Van Gogh. “Either Side of the World” is a gorgeous, loping exercise in avoiding outwardly seductive pitfalls.

“Isolation,” the one song credited to all four band members, begins as a dreamy waltz that yearns for human connection, then abruptly shifts to a lurching, grimy rock grind that parallels the struggle of making that connection.

That segues into the elegant pulsing pop-rock of “Twice If You're Lucky,” with its echoes of first-incarnation Crowded House's “Love This Life” as it embraces the changes that life inevitably has in store: “There are times that come once in your life/Twice if you're lucky,” Finn sings in the chorus. As rock ‘n' roll bands go, Crowded House seems to be one of the lucky ones.

--Randy Lewis

Crowded House
Three stars (out of four)

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