Crowded House: The Very Very Best of Crowded House

Cash-in compilation can't help but being top-notch. Except for "Chocolate Cake", that is.

Crowded House

The Very Very Best of Crowded House

Label: Capitol
US Release Date: 2010-10-25
UK Release Date: 2010-10-18

At least the folks at Capitol have a sense of humor. With the extra "very" in The Very Very Best of Crowded House, they're acknowledging this is a cash-in on a band that's no longer on their roster. Capitol released Recurring Dream -- The Very Best of Crowded House shortly after the band split in 1996. Hot on the heels of the re-formed Crowded House's latest studio album, Intriguer, comes this new collection. Intriguer, however, is not represented on The Very Very Best of Crowded House. Instead, Capitol has licensed from the band's current label a couple tracks off 2007's Time on Earth, shoehorned them into Recurring Dream, swapped out handful of tracks for good measure, and given the small number of new fans a slightly more comprehensive career overview. Got that?

Both collections come in at 19 tracks, and have all but five of them in common. Redundant, yes, but that's what struggling major labels do when there's a back catalog that can be exploited for a fraction of the cost of a studio album. So which one's better, The Very Best of Crowded House or The Very Very Best of Crowded House? Basically, it's a six-of-one, half-dozen-of-the-other proposition. You can't lose, because Crowded House is one of the most consistent, intelligent, and catchy pop-rock groups of the last 25 years. Either way, you'll get highlights from the band's initial four studio albums, plus a couple tracks recorded for the 1996 release. Or, spring for the digital version, which consolidates both releases and adds even more tracks. "Don't Stop Now" and "Pour le Monde" from Time on Earth are fine songs, but neither is a dealmaker or breaker. If anything, they demonstrate how songwriter Neil Finn has aged gracefully, perhaps too comfortably for some.

If there's a deciding factor, it's the appearance on The Very Very Best of Crowded House of "Chocolate Cake". No album that claims to be the best of anything should include that song, which Q magazine once aptly described as "the song that single-handedly ruined [Crowded House] in the States". Sure enough, the track, with its canned anti-Americanisms and dated Tammy Faye Baker references, is a rare misfire from Finn, and a bad one at that. The lead single from third album Woodface, it did indeed ensure that, while Crowded House was huge in much of the world, in the U.S., it would thereafter be a cult concern.

The folly of "Chocolate Cake" is glaring because everything else on The Very Very Best of Crowded House is very, very good. Early touchstones "Mean to Me", "Something So Strong", and signature hit "Don't Dream It's Over" are here, and are surprisingly bereft of the trappings of the '80s, when they were recorded. In other words, no sax solos or overcompressed drums or gratuitous synthesizers. Just warm, good ol' songwriting. Tear-in-the-beer ballad "Better Be Home Soon" showed the early run was no fluke, and the other Woodface selections are prime. Just as Finn could be nostalgic without sounding schmaltzy, as on the classic "Weather with You", he could look romance straight in the face without being sentimental. The indelible melody and campfire chorus of "Four Seasons in One Day" don't make Finn's world any less complicated a place. They only mean he's "smiling as the shit comes down."

If The Very Very Best of Crowded Houes has anything resembling a surprise to spring, it's the implicit acknowledgement of 1993's Together Alone as the band's masterpiece. No fewer than six selections from that album are included. The sublime ballad "Nails in My Feet" is a welcome addition, building a delicate tension to a euphoric climax, to which the only possible response is, as Finn sings, "total surrender". The beautiful, almost baroque "Pineapple Head", moody "Private Universe", Lennonesque rocker "Locked Out", and thoughtfully pop "Distant Sun" all demonstrate the range and experimental edge Crowded House had by that point acquired.

Then they split up. Thankfully, they've righted that oversight, and The Very Very Best of Crowded House, though redundant in both name and content, is a worthy by-product.






The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.


The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.


Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.


'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.


'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"


Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.


The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".


GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".


Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".


Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.


Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.


The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".


Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.


Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.