[Review] Crowded House: Woodface (1991)

Asks the musical question: How much Woodface would a Neil Finn finish, if a Neil Finn didn’t have Tim?

Kronomyth 3.0: Wooden it be nice.

I took a shine to Woodface when I first heard it. Compared it to Squeeze’s Play, worked up a whole butterfly stomper bit for it and everything. But the older I get, the less comfortable I feel in Crowded House. Maybe it’s because they smoothed out Split Enz’s wrinkles, and I’m finding beauty in the wrinkles these days.

Woodface was the album that reunited brothers Neil Finn and Tim Finn, which was a big deal if you were a Split Enz fan, or had no life (noting that the two usually go hand in hand). It’s Neil’s show, much as No. 10 Upping Street was Mick Jones’ show. Tim gets a cowriting credit more than half the time and sings harmonies, but there’s only room for one golden child in Crowded House.

Let’s start with what’s good about Woodface. The harmonies of Neil and Tim Finn: they’re the best thing this side of the Everlys. Neil knows his way around a clever hook: Weather with You, Four Seasons in a Day, Fame Is, As Sure As I Am, Fall at Your Feet. Neil and Tim rarely try the same trick twice.

And now for the failings of Woodface, as observed by a man who literally has a block of cheese on his desk as he writes this. Mitchell Froom. There’s someone who should have started his own band and stopped mucking about on other people’s albums. The album, in fact, compares rather poorly to Play. Also, the record doesn’t live up to the expectations I had for a Finn family reunion. That from a man whose own expectations allow for eating cheese in the basement at midnight.

Far be it from me to steer you away from listening to Woodface. It has a bunch of new songs from Neil and Tim Finn (and one from drummer Paul Hester), which is praise enough in these parts. Whether it’s appreciably better than the first two Crowded House albums, well, I’m backing away from that opinion. It’s still Split Enz lite, but with a good pedigree.

Original elpee version

A1. Chocolate Cake (4:02)
A2. It’s Only Natural (3:32)
A3. Fall at Your Feet (Neil Finn) (3:18)
A4. Tall Trees (2:19)
A5. Weather with You (3:44)
A6. Whispers and Moans (Neil Finn) (3:39)
A7. Four Seasons in One Day (2:50)
B1. There Goes God (3:50)
B2. Fame Is (Neil Finn) (2:23)
B3.  All I Ask (3:56)
B4. As Sure As I Am (Neil Finn) (2:53)
B5. Italian Plastic (Paul Hester) (3:39)
B6. She Goes On (Neil Finn) (3:15)
B7. How Will You Go (5:45)

All songs written by Neil Finn and Tim Finn unless noted.

Hidden track
15. I’m Still Here

The Players

Neil Finn (guitars, vocals and keyboards), Tim Finn (piano, guitars and vocals), Paul Hester (drums, vocals, keyboards and percussion), Nick Seymour (bass and vocals) with Alex Acuna (additional percussion), Peter Bucknell (violin on B1), Jorge Callendrelli (string arrangement and conductor on B3), Stuart Ellison (additional keyboards), Ricky Fataar (drums and percussion on A5/B1/B3), Sharon Finn (backing vocals on B3), Mitchell Froom (keyboards), Geoffrey Hales (additional percussion), Mark Hart (additional keyboards), David Hidalgo (accordion on B4), Jack ack (brass), Vince Parsonage (viola on B1), Chris Wilson (harmonica on A1/A4/B1). Produced by Mitchell Froom and Neil Finn. Engineered by Tchad Blake and Paul Kosky; overdub engineered by Tchad Blake; mixed by Bob Clearmountain.

The Pictures

Cover painting by Nick Seymour. Art direction by Nick Seymour and Tommy Steele. Photography by Dennis Keeley. Design by Stephen Walker. Letter construction by Timothy Earnes. Invaluable design assistance by Sally Anne Mill, Noel Crombie and Kelly Ray.

The Plastic

Released on elpee, compact disc and cassette on July 2, 1991 in Australia and the US (Capitol CDP 7/C4 93559), the UK (Capitol, EST/CDEST/TCEST-2144) and Colombia (EMI, 11001404). Reached #83 on the US charts and #34 on the UK charts). Re-charted to #6 on the UK charts in 1993.

  1. Re-issued on 180g vinyl elpee in 2000 in the UK (Simply Vinyl, SVLP-240).
  2. Repackaged with Together Alone on 2-for-1 2CD in 2006 in Australia (EMI, 864236).

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