WHEN it was announced in 2018 that Neil Finn was replacing Lindsey Buckingham in Fleetwood Mac, some Crowded House fans were concerned it was the death knell for the beloved Trans-Tasman band.
In actual fact, it proved Crowded House's reawakening. "I still believe in the concept of bands," Finn said. "Finding myself inside a classic band like Fleetwood Mac full of great characters got me thinking about my band."
Finn reunited with founding bassist Nick Seymour and then recruited producer-keyboardist Mitchell Froom and his sons Liam (guitar, backing vocals) and Elroy (drums) to form the third version of Crowded House.
The new five-piece's first contribution to Crowded House's illustrious canon is Dreamers Are Waiting.
Much like their other most-recent albums Time On Earth (2007) and Intriguer (2010) - released since the band's golden period with original drummer Tim Hester - Dreamers Are Waiting lacks the anthemic quality of their early work.
Anybody expecting another Something So Strong or Weather With You will be disappointed. Finn, 63, has settled into writing mature indie-pop. However, what Finn hasn't lost is his ability is convey beauty and melancholy through abstract couplets. The warm harmonies at the heart of Crowded House also sound natural with Liam Finn, who understandably has spent his life singing along with his father.
Neil and Liam's harmonies peak on the stirring John Lennon-esque Show Me The Way, while Elroy's energetic drumming on the psych pop-flavoured Love Isn't Hard At All seemingly enthuses his father's vocal.
It's impossible to avoid the references to COVID-19. On Playing With Fire Neil sings of "Lately I've been lying frozen in my bed/ Feeling like the end isn't far away" and then "My wife is wild in quarantine/ The chairman's got it in for me" over a quirky guitar riff and horns.
Dreamers Are Waiting is an album about experience and how we continue to confront new fears and discoveries with age. Learning that Crowded House remain creatively relevant might be Neil's greatest recent discovery.