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Crowded House – Woodface (1991)

May 2, 2014

[Album 307/1001]Crowded_House-Woodface_(album_cover)

To the claustrophobic, a crowded house is an unappealing notion.

Hopefully the band name does not scare off potential fans as the appeal of Woodface is difficult to deny.

With their third record, Crowded House set the tone for the middle of the road in the 90s.  Think Toad the Wet Sprocket, Hootie & the Blowfish.  Maybe not the most exhilarating records in the world but never anything less than pleasant.

The hits were numerous:

–          Fall on Your Feet, the ballad with a driving beat similar to With or Without You

–          Weather With You is as charming as pop music gets

–          Four Seasons in One Day is an effective change in pace & tone, somewhat like the respite provided by And I love her in its placement between more up-tempo numbers on A Hard Day’s Night

–          It’s only Natural would have been another natural single choice, an obvious fit for a lead single.

So of course the lead promotional single was…the U.S.-criticizing opening track, Chocolate Cake?  To quote Ned Flanders, oopsie doodle.

Citizens of any country generally don’t respond well to being criticized by foreigners.

Exhibit A: Billy Bob Thornton suggesting Canadians were “mashed potatoes without gravy.” After his immature interview went viral, he hastily pulled out of his Canadian tour, citing health concerns.

Exhibit B: The recent cancellation of Piers Morgan’s CNN talk show. With the benefit of hindsight, unsurprisingly, Americans weren’t terribly fond of a recent British import telling them about problems with gun control in the USA.

Crowded House didn’t strike me as a group that would be intentionally provocative. Which made their lead single choice so bizarre: what was Crowded House &/or their label thinking releasing Chocolate Cake with the lyric, “excess of fat on [their] American bones” ?

Did Americans really want to be scolded about their body mass indices by a pop group from Australia & New Zealand? Crowded House is not Eminem; this is not the kind of group that should be actively seeking out & thriving on controversy!

The single misstep aside, the rest of the album should cause little offense.

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From → 1990s

27 Comments
  1. Storytime courtesy of Sarca…

    The year was 1992 and I went to London, ON to visit my sis during my March Break in HS. We went to see CROWDED HOUSE at Alumni Hall (UWO), front row, b!tches!!

    I loved these guys. my favourite was Paul Hester, Mr. Cutie-Cute. He came to the edge of the stage, held and kissed my hand for a whole 3 seconds (it felt like the world stopped for about 1 minute, but probably 3 seconds in real time).

    I had a Woodface t-shirt from that concert – wore it until it fell apart. Great concert. The night was magic.

    I was obviously devastated by Paul’s suicide, I cannot even begin to tell you.

    • I was shocked by that.

      • I remember when I heard too. In bed, the alarm went off and have it set to 680 news. Not the type of news like to wake up to. I almost burst into tears and went, “Oh God, no!” The hubs asked who that was, and I told him. He isn’t familiar with Crowded House, but knew I was a fan. Not a good day.

    • An Alumni Hall show? Interesting venue – sounds infinitely more exciting than the only other show I’ve been to there – my convocation. That’s a great story!

      • My convocation too 🙂

        UWO was the venue of some great acts while I was there. The Odds and Lowest of the Low were always performing at the Spoke. Got to see the Tea Party (and a very drunk Jeff Martin) at the foot of UC hill during Frosh Week ’93.

      • By the time I got there, most groups played at ‘the wave’ (2nd floor of the University Community Centre) – still some decent sized acts though, had a great time seeing Sloan & Big Wreck.

        Never saw the Odds live – that’s a show (especially at a venue as intimate as the spoke!) I would have loved to see

      • Ok my friend, let me tell you about the UCC…it was being reno’ed while I was there. It was completely crude for the first couple of years and still being built by the time I was outta there in ’97 even though they had a GRAND OPENING ceremony (I have a mug commemorating it, we were all like, “wha? it’s not even finished”…) I think the wave was being fixed up / reno’ed (essentially closed) when I was there. Don’t recall going there too often at all. But yeah, it was a disaster zone while I was there. The cafe was a teeny little space. That Harvey’s / Mr Sub place by the library had JUST opened the semester before I graduated (I was like: finally, a place to maw!).

        Sloan and other acts I would see frequently at a night club down Wharncliffe Rd S…the name escapes me now…or Call the Office – Headstones loved that joint.

      • that sounds like a premature grand opening!
        When I was leaving – I think they were turning the Spoke into more of a Williams-type establishment. Since frosh were coming into university at age 17, they shifted the emphasis to more of a cafe-feel, haven’t heard how it’s worked out.

        I think the Wharncliffe one was called The Drink at one point – likely changed since though of course!

      • Yeah, I don’t remember “the drink”…but it was a one-word wonder, for sure.

        And lol at turning the Spoke into a Williams pub, considering the stuff that went down there…I have no “storytime from Sarca” to offer on that lol.

  2. Crowded House had some pretty damned fine singles back in the day, but I’ve always considered them a little ‘wet’.

    • Interesting adjective ‘wet’ – meaning ‘watered down’ or not really great or awful?

      • You don’t have that phrase over your way? I guess it means a bit girly?! Something like that. Coldplay could be classed as ‘wet’ perhaps?

      • new adjective to me at least!

  3. Crowded House were a great band, very talented. This might be their best. Is this the one that has both Tim and Neil Finn? It hurts to see the word “Hootie” in this article.

    • Yes, my eyes bled a little seeing that…

      • My sincerest apologies, my reviews are never intended to cause eye bleeding!

        Believe it or not, the comparison was meant to be complimentary (though I agree, the band who shall not be named again does have quite an unfortunate name. Right up there with ‘goo goo dolls,’ regardless of the music quality, the band moniker acts as a bit of a deterrent).

        When I listened to Woodface, especially the enjoyable singles, they sounded like something that would have been on either the soundtrack to So I Married an Axe Murderer or the Friends soundtrack. Soundtracks that featured groups like Toad the Wet Sprocket, Soul Asylum, Barenaked Ladies. Soundtracks that might not have changed the world but I still enjoyed (and continue to enjoy).

        Both Finns do appear on this one, yes. And I was listening to Q a couple weeks ago – Jian had just gone to see Neil performing in Toronto and said it was an excellent show.

      • So shall we warn Geoff to never do that again?

      • That’s okay, I got him back with my blogpost about the thorian, haha!

      • OK good! Even steven then.

        I’ll take a moment to say something regarding Hootie. I saw a list of the “worst bands of the 1990’s” the other day. The headline picture was Hootie. My first thought was it was the lazy answer to use Hootie. Seriously? There weren’t worse bands than Hootie in the 1990’s? Come on.

      • Yeah, really! At least the dude could sing and had some catchy tunes. I just never really took to them like other bands…like the Black Crowes.

      • I worked in a record store, so I heard that album a lot. However I always recommended it to people, because a lot of people were getting sick of the negativity of grunge. For something modern yet not heavy, Hootie was perfect.

        Their next album completely tanked though. I remember my boss saying, “It’s because people aren’t giving it a chance,” and he was right. The tides has turned.

      • The one thing I hated about Hootie was how they hijacked 54.40’s “I go blind” with their rendition, and that was all you heard on the radio, when 54.40’s is far superior imo.

        The Spin Doctors – they were one of “those” from the 1990s…Two Princes? ugh.

      • That thorian was unpleasant at best *shudder*

        I think ‘H_____’ is one of those easy targets, I remember they were even ridiculed in the film Spice World. When the Spice Girls are picking on you, sheesh.

        Worst name of the 90s, tough to argue.
        Worst band? Hardly.

        As you said Mike, that debut Cracked Rear View was a hit, sold 20 million+ if I remember correctly. The lead singer Darius Rucker has since become a successful country singer so clearly he’s connecting with audiences in some way.

        So acceptable as its own entity, yes. I’ve now learned not to liken them to other beloved groups 🙂

        And the Spin Doctors was totally a 90s soundtrack group as well – Two Princes was particularly ubiquitous!

  4. BTW, Geoff, my obsession album from Crowded House is Temple of Low Men. Some excellent songs on that album. I found a copy of it on CD last summer and it just brought back so many great memories for me.

    • Just checked out the tracklist – don’t recognize any of the names at first glance but it’s one I’d like to explore, thanks!

      • “You better be home soon” is probably their most recognized from that album. But, they are all great. Just so easy on the ears and “hot bath” wonderful.

  5. This was the Album that made me realize they could be as good as they were when the Finn Brothers were in Split Enz. A great poppy album some amazing hooks.

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