Welcome back, boys!!

Neil Finn reforms Crowded House
It has been 14 years between studio albums, but Australian pop rock darlings Crowded House are back with their fifth effort, Time On Earth.
Lead singer Neil Finn says reforming the band following its 1996 dissolution wasn’t a snap decision.
“I gave it a lot of serious thought before I decided to ring Nick (bassist Nick Seymour) and suggest it to him,” Finn says on the line prior to a London gig. “In some ways it had gotten to the point where I knew I wanted to be in a band, it was just deciding whether it was going to be Crowded House or not because I enjoyed the experience of working with Nick.”
The rekindling of the pair’s friendship and musical partnership was triggered in part by the tragedy surrounding former Crowded House drummer Paul Hester, who took his own life in March 2005 in a Melbourne park at age 46 .
“Events just happen in your life that lead you to other places,” Finn says.
“There were a number of things that happened. I guess in some ways losing Paul brought Nick and I back together socially and as friends. Out of that grew the desire to play some music together. There was a feeling that something was there that was still precious and could be worth looking at.”
Time On Earth, in stores Tuesday, features 14 tracks although Finn considered paring the album down to 12. While songs like Nobody Wants To, English Trees and She Called Up work well within the Crowded House repertoire, the tender and atmospheric A Sigh is a bit more adventurous.
“We had this beautiful discovery of this ambient guitar stuff that I had written with Jay Joyce a couple of years ago in my studio,” Finn says. “It was supposed to be for a film but it didn’t make the film. It wasn’t any fault of the music. We laid it over the song and it fitted so absolutely perfectly, as if it was made for it.”
The group also had to find a drummer for the album and upcoming tour, which hits six Canadian cities in August and September. After auditioning about 45 drummers in 10 days, the band decided on former Beck drummer Matt Sherrod.
“Matt is his own man,” Finn says. “I think that was what we like about him and he actually didn’t know a lot about Crowded House but he responded to the songs. And it felt very exciting for us. The choice was kind of obvious in the end.”
While fans should be satisfied with Time On Earth, there are other releases in the planning stages. A box set featuring unreleased material and rarities is expected sometime in 2008.
“There’s a guy in New Zealand who is really dedicated to it and thank Christ for that because none of us would get around to it,” Finn says of the project.
“You’re only going to do a box set once and asking the fans to shell out for a big set of stuff that they’re interested in, you want it to be really good.”
After wrapping up their world tour prior to Christmas, Crowded House is planning to return to the studio early in 2008 to work on another album.
“We’re very keen to get the new band rocking on record,” Finn says.
“We did a little bit of it on this record with the last four songs but it bodes well. I think there’s a lot of good future in the band.”
The road can be hazardous
Although Crowded House has a busy 2007 planned, the group’s initial string of shows this year put it in some odd company and situations.
The band’s appearance at California’s Coachella festival earlier this year had it playing before a reunited Rage Against The Machine took to the stage. It’s a combination that doesn’t exactly seem to musically mesh.
“That was an inspired pairing, I thought,” Neil Finn says about the show. “It was really great and we had a good time doing it, too. We chose to put ourselves in the belly of the beast and in the end we calmed the savage beast.”
The performance, however, included a projectile tossed from the audience, fortunately only striking Finn’s microphone stand and knocking it over.
“Really good shot, wasn’t it?” he says regarding the incident. “That video on YouTube is really quite a good angle, you can really see the arc of the bottle.”
The band’s late-June performance at Hyde Park Calling in London also featured a downpour and Finn reportedly chastising a person on stage for making hand gestures.
Only midway through the set was Finn informed that the person was a sign language interpreter for the hearing impaired in the audience, resulting in a quick and humbling apology.