not a member? click here to sign up
There is almost nothing that can't be made uninteresting if it's approached with sufficient fervour. Songwriting is a case in point.
Liam Fay, 11 Jul 1991
There is almost nothing that can't be made uninteresting if it's approached with sufficient fervour. Songwriting is a case in point. No sooner does an act begin to earn a reputation for consummate tunesmithery than it starts trying too hard to live up to it. From then on, nothing is simple anymore. Everything becomes finely-wrought and intricately-crafted. The artists themselves keep attempting to pull rabbits out of hats and forget how to wear them (the hats, that is).
Crowded House are one such band, and Woodface is their most finely-wrought and intricately-crafted offering yet. That is, it's an over-egged pudding of ardour, artifice and contrivance that goes in one ear but doesn't even have the strength of character to make it out the other. After almost a dozen spins, the only impression that the record has left on me is of fourteen flamboyantly-biceped and toffee-tanned songs sunning themselves on a rooftop. Muscle ripple and limbs glisten but nothing really happens. Listen to it long enough though and sun spots appear before your eyes, slowly forming the three most dreaded letters in the English language, AOR.
True, the House landlord, Neil Finn, still does a neat line in barbed couplets, and the drafting in of his elder brother (and former co-driver in the Split Enz cockpit) Tim allows for some pleasingly tight harmonies but the constant striving for technical perfection and sterilised clarity works like a bleaching agent and drains all traces of colour from the material. Maybe producer Mitchell Froom is the chief culprit but I can't help feeling that the band have lost their once unerring knack for knocking out catchy melodies and are now content to trick about with subtle chord changes. It's an approach that's certainly not going to win them any new friends. I mean, have you ever tried to hum a chord change?
Anyone interested in seeing the genuine pop sparks that Crowded House at their best are capable of spitting out should rifle through the bargain bins for a copy of the 1998 album, Temple Of Low Men. The only way you'll get any sparks out of 'Woodface', however, is if you chop it up and fling it in the fireplace. Lumbering, I think is the word.