Just 65 seconds into the opening track, “Nobody Wants To,” and it’s clear that Crowded House’s first studio album in 14 years is no retitled Neil Finn solo project.
Not that Finn would ever turn out a record that was less than finely crafted, but Crowded House is its own distinct, slightly effervescent cocktail of acoustic guitar, melodic bass and layered harmonies. Time on Earth offers an evocation of darkness and light, a sweetness in harmonies and a certain pop lilt that springs from the interplay between Finn and bassist Nick Seymour.
However, Time on Earth is haunted by the memory of the band’s late drummer, Paul Hester, who committed suicide in 2005. While new member Matt Sherrod (formerly with Beck) is up to the task, the album’s mood is one of melancholy and sorrow with slow-tempo songs like “Silent House” (written with the Dixie Chicks) and “You Are the One to Make Me Cry.” Longtime fans will not be disappointed, but Time on Earth is easier to take in doses rather than one extended listening.