After more than 10 years of inactivity, Crowded House has released its seventh studio album, Dreamers Are Waiting. The Australian band, known for their hit singles “Don’t Dream It’s Over” and “Something So Strong”, was formed in 1985 by Neil Finn, Paul Hester and Nick Seymour. The band broke up in 1996, but reformed in 2006 following Hester’s death. Now, the current lineup features Finn’s sons.
Dreamers Are Waiting is an album with a lot of stuff going on beneath the surface. It requires several close listens. It is a subtle album, full of soft, smooth rock. The first two tracks especially create a really interesting sonic element, made more so by the fact that this is a classic rock group releasing new music in 2021.
The intro to “Bad Times Good,” the first track on the record, features a gradual layering of — real — instruments, beginning with a really pleasant acoustic riff and layering in electric fills, a bit of synth and some piano. Hearing this kind of musical, instrumental purpose behind a song is just really enjoyable for 2021. You can tell, just 30 seconds into this track, that this was an album made the old school way, with real instruments and real musicians, and that is automatically intriguing.
The slight key change in the bridge, the backing vocals, the synth — this is a song that exists really in its own world. And Finn, more than thirty years since the band’s inception, really still sounds great.
That first track really sets the mood for the album, a mood that’s built upon in a really great way with the next track, “Playing With Fire”.
This track is undoubtedly the best song on the album. It is perhaps the most dynamic song on the entire album, moving from a slower, funkier riff to a more driving, powerful chorus and back. The drum kit is a bit more present here and there is simply more movement. The song is telling a story and the music is moving you along that story in a way that makes sense. This song really feels like Crowded House at their best.
And the lyrics to this track are surprisingly poignant, something made more so by the funky rhythm and almost joyful expression coming from the music.
“Lately I’ve been lying frozen in my bed/Feeling like the end isn’t far away.”
This line here takes you by surprise. Here we have a classic rock group releasing music in 2021, close to 40 years from their start in ‘85. This seems like a pretty stark, honest and transparent look into that simple demon of growing older.
“And this time, let’s all be quiet/The next generation’s talking/We’re behind the wheel/We’re driving straight to the wall.”
This, once again, seems like such a stark moment of genuine clarity and honesty. The lyrics are ambiguous enough that they could be talking politics, albeit subtly, or they could be making a more general statement here, to step aside and make room for the next generation, an interesting thing to say even as this old band comes back from a long hiatus to release more music.
But as we move past these first two singles into the rest of the album, it’s greatest failure is revealed: stagnancy. The kind of vibes that made these first two tracks solid songs are repeated throughout the album. Soft, almost funky rock with very little movement. Just circular tracks that chase the same sonic feelings around and around, resulting in something that, for the first 6 tracks, feels intriguing and possibly even unique, but for the last 6 tracks, just feels a bit tired.
This isn’t rectified until the penultimate track, “Love Isn’t Hard At All”, which, like the first two songs, is really good, perhaps even great. It feels retro, it drives, it stands out sonically and rhythmically from the rest of the album, and lyrically, I daresay it almost feels recalcitrant of The Beatles.
Dreamers Are Waiting is a good album. The only thing keeping it from being a great album is its general lack of motion and overall dynamics. It just doesn’t have the kind of forward momentum that an album should.