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Crowded House: The Intriguer

Rating: 4/5

Verdict: Adventurous second album of the reformation.

The Intriguer. Photo / Supplied
The Intriguer. Photo / Supplied

Three years on from the first reunion album, Neil Finn's Crowded House deliver another. It's one that, like the last, proves the band isn't just going through the motions in this extended chapter of a career.

As the title promises, it's certainly more intriguing than its overlong predecessor Time On Earth.

On that one you could still spot the joins between the Finn solo album it started out as, and the band effort it decided to become.

This one sounds painted on the same canvas - and with a bold new colour scheme offering some tweaks to the Crowded House template of old. They are most apparent from the punchy synthpop-rocker of opener Saturday Sun, through to the samba-discofied Other Side of the World and slow-surging guitars of penultimate track, Inside Out.

And while it's all over in a tidy vinyl-friendly 10 songs, it certainly feels like an album hoping to transport you somewhere, especially with the pictures Finn's words paint of a strange day in the Dutch capital on Amsterdam, a rendezvous at a Moscow railway station on Falling Dove or the mad cruise ship conga line suggested by the aforementioned Other Side.

There are, of course, echoes of earlier House efforts - Archers Arrows starts out as a close psychedelic cousin to Private Universe before spiralling on its own way into a pleading chorus which sounds like it owes something to heyday Elvis Costello.

Likewise, both Twice if You're Lucky and Amsterdam have the bittersweet breeziness which marked Finn's post-Split Enz band as something special on that debut album, all those years ago. Elsewhere, Falling Dove starts off as the prettiest thing on offer before its folky hush gives away to thrilling fuzzy Beatle-rock.

There's a similar fireworks finale to Isolation, which for the most part is Finn in a hushed his'n'hers duet with wife Sharon.

Until, that is, the song goes quite mad in the sort of way you might usually associate with their oldest offspring.

And with the woozy closing-time piano-and-pedal-steel ballad of Elephants, The Intriguer's dream run comes with a fittingly dreamy finish.

- NZ Herald

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