Crowded House: Temple Of Low Men
Oct 15, 1988
Why is success making Mr Finn miserable?
TEMPLE OF LOW MEN, Crowded House (Capitol)
“The taste of success only lasts you/half an hour or less” spits Neil Finn in ‘Mansion In The Slums’. And if Crowded House’s ebullient debut album reflected the optimism of a band bound for phenomenal popularity, their follow-up, Temple Of Low Men, smacks of fame’s bitter after-taste. Temptation, possession, wealth, sin… with stardom, these tortuous topics have come to the front in Finn’s writing. And the angst is echoed in the minor keys, dissonant chords and outbursts of jagged guitar.
Why is success making Mr Finn so miserable? Perhaps it’s true what they say about being lonely at the top, or maybe this confessional urge is a remnant of his Catholic childhood?
It’s a gamble for a group that built their name on simple, positive pop like ‘Something So Strong’ and ‘Don’t Dream It’s Over’. But Crowded House carry it off, thanks to Finn’s instinct for melodic hooks and classic choruses, which delay the impact of the songs’ darker undertones. Low Men’s superficially sweet single ‘Better Be Home Soon’ had snuck into my subconscious long before I was aware of the emotional tension it contains (“Don’t say nothing’s wrong/cos when you get back maybe I’ll be gone”).
These multi-layered songs are skilfully realised with arrangements that highlight their drama (an inheritance from Split Enz) and deep, textured production from American Mitchell Froom.
And Finn’s sweet, Anglo Saxon-soul voice stands the test of taking lead on all ten of the album’s titles, gently understating the tension that lies within these tracks.