Crowded House - Woodface (1991) album cover

REVIEW: ‘Woodface’ by Crowded House (CD, 1991)

Today’s POP RESCUE is the 1991 third album Woodface by four-piece band Crowded House. But, would this be like a quality oak, or a load of rot? Read on..

This 14 track album opens how most albums would probably hope to begin – with Chocolate Cake. Well, actually it’s some snare and a bass before they launch into some mild derogatory comments about Andrew Lloyd-Webber and someone called Kathy Straker. This is quite a fun little song, and pretty catchy too, although when it was released as the lead single, it stumbled at #69 in the UK.

Next up is single It’s Only Natural, which is laden with vocal harmonies, and warm strummed rhythms on acoustic and electric guitars. The bass wanders around as a gentle beat lets the vocals and melody shine. The single gave them a moderate #24 UK hit in 1992.

This is followed by Fall At Your Feet, which has a wonderful chugging bassline, as a chilled out electric guitar and beat sits beneath yet more warm, simple, vocals and backing vocals. This was the second single from the album, giving them a #17 UK hit.

The tempo picks up for Tall Trees, which has some great louder vocals and growling guitars. This sits well with their indie contemporaries in the early 1990s – slightly but not too angry in a Blur way, vocal harmonies like The Beatles.

Up next is the huge hit Weather With You, which oddly didn’t give them a number one. This fantastically melodic song is just perfect – again the vocals are wonderful. The acoustic guitars, the percussion, and the bass are great. It flows with great ease, and I can’t not tap my foot and sing along. The single gave them a #7 UK hit, and is so far their highest charting single. Spot on.

There’s some funky bass and electric guitars in Whispers And Moans, in what is mostly a drifting song, punctuated by some growling guitars and wonderfully foot-tapping melodies.

This is followed by single Four Seasons In One Day, which is a much more downbeat song. This song reminds me again of The Beatles musically and sometimes vocally too. The song flows gently, and the warm vocals sit here as if lifted from some medieval song.

There Goes God is up next, which sees a string synth play in the background of shuffling drums and strumming guitars. This is a nice mellow song, complete with harmonica in the mid-section.

Fame Is feels like quite an angry song, with roaring drums, guitars and vocals to match, and I’m not so keen.

By contrast it’s followed by some strings that feel like we’re about to get a Frank Sinatra Christmas song… but it’s All I Ask, and musically it could easily be a classic song by Frank – but it’s an original. The vocals really get the time and space they deserve – flawless, and the song feels completely out of place here.

The tempo remains mellow for the guitars that usher in As Sure As I Am. It’s soon joined by vocals and accordion, that sit perfectly alongside a gentle bass and percussion. By the time the chorus arrives, it sounds a little like Fairground Attraction as the song lifts – sounding a little folky, but soon some heavier guitars arrive. The accordion gets plenty of nice little sections and it sounds really good here, and the guitar gets a solo towards the end too.

Italian Plastic is up next open with some guitar chords and a light percussion. The vocal harmonies are soon in for the verse, and by the time of the chorus, this song feels almost like the musical companion to Weather With You, at least until the harmonica arrives. The song is warm, melodious and feels like a lazy summer Sunday afternoon. It has a false ending, with the real ending again reminding me like some Lennon/McCartney track.

Penultimate track She Goes On follows and gives us lots of lovely percussion and gentle strumming guitars. The vocals are rich here, and sound wonderfully soft. At times I could imagine R.E.M’s Michael Stipe singing this. Amusingly they sing the line ‘We owe it all to Frank Sinatra‘, which given their All I Ask track, seems fitting her.

The album closes with the wave of strings and brushed snares from How Will You Go. There’s a nice mid-section with keyboards, strings, and affected guitar, and the snare increases too, helping the song to build up to the album’s final throes.

…but, the track finishes with another 1m 40s to go…

Suddenly a heavy roaring song with some screaming vocals turns up – chugging bass and guitars – it’s hidden mini-track I’m Still Here. This song feels like a humorous studio jam session that happened to make it onto tape. It’s a fun ending to this otherwise non-rock album.

Over all, the big singles really shine here, and the rest of the album is just a really nice collection of songs – nothing bad, just plenty of warm, mellow, tuneful songs that are expertly written and produced. Whilst you’d have failed to escape Weather With You, if you liked that, then give this album a listen – Crowded House are far more than just that.

Where are Crowded House now?

Crowded House broke through into mainstream success in the UK with this album, with Weather With You, It’s Only Natural, and Four Seasons In One Day becoming synonymous with their name.

The album was highly successful in Australia where it is considered to be one of the greatest albums of all time.

Founding drummer Paul Hester left the group in 1994, and committed suicide in 2005. Drummer Peter Jones died in 2012 from cancer.

The group disbanded in 1996, with Neil Finn taking focus on his solo career, and with Finn Brothers with his brother Tim, but re-formed in 2006 with new drummer and have since seen great success in Australia with their two albums Time On Earth (2007) and Intriguer (2009).

Neil and Tim Finn were both awarded OBEs by Queen Elizabeth II in 1993 for their services to music.

The group released single Help Is Coming in September 2015, to raise money for refugees.

POP RESCUE ‘WOODFACE’ RATING:

Post Author: Andrew Martin

Andrew Martin is lead reviewer for Pop Rescue and has been here since day one. He loves collecting vinyl, and can often be found in charity stores having a damn good rummage. He loves 80s and 90s pop and electronic music.

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