In the period September 1988 to May 1991 Crowded House failed to set the charts on fire with no top twenty entries in Australia prior to the release of their third album Woodface in July 1991.
The band had also struggled in the US after the initial success of their eponymous debut album; their second album, Temple of Low Men, was an estimable artistic achievement, but deemed to be overly complex and melancholic, it had not lived up to expectations commercially there, even though it was a #1 hit in Australia in 1988.
Three years later and Neil Finn was suffering anxiety attacks and in the grip of a paralyzing bout of writer’s block, Capitol Record company President Hale Milgrim had rejected the first cut of their third album, and privately Neil Finn agreed that only half of the songs were up to standard. Neil asked his older brother Tim and former Split Enz band mate to help, Tim had just returned to Melbourne after living overseas for seven years in a long-term relationship with Australian actress Greta Scacchi (pictured below) which had ended in 1989. Between them the brothers re-discovered the missing creative spark and fraternal camaraderie that ultimately produced a great album.
Neil had converted his house in Melbourne into a recording studio called Periscope, during the sessions Neil played bass, Ricky Fataar was recruited on drums and Tim (pictured below) on guitar, at this time the creative process was very much about the brothers, neither Paul Hester nor Nick Seymour participated in the recording process on the first raft of songs demoed.
The sessions were looking more like a Finn Brothers side project, than the third Crowded House album, ultimately this would cause Neil’s bandmates Hester and Seymour, regular producer Mitchell Froom, and their record label Capitol, considerable angst. Compromise was required to capture and exploit the great songs that the brothers had written while ensuring the future momentum of Crowded House, who were a bona fide international act. The side project including Tim Finn was ultimately merged with Crowded House, sibling rivalry was temporarily sublimated, the album was completed, and the band went on the road to promote it.
The first two singes lifted off the album, Chocolate Cake (#20) and Fall At Your Feet (#35) were only minor hits here and failed to chart in the US, but the blissful pop of It’s Only Natural started to build momentum for the band again, climbing to #15 here and #24 in the UK, but it was the next single, Weather With You that really hit the charts here and overseas.
Weather with You is one of several songs on the album in which the weather, be it the physical environment or one’s more intimate personal emotional climate, that figures prominently in the lyrics, and the mood and ambience of the songs. This was the first song the brothers wrote for the album, Tim had the lines “Everywhere you go, always take the weather with you” and “Walking round the room singing Stormy Weather at 57 Mount Pleasant Street “which may have been a reference to their Melbourne address or a street with the same name in Auckland, where the brothers’ sister used to live. The opening chords of the song are dream-like with jangly guitar riffs and subtle percussion until the first verse when the reverie is disturbed and the mood changes “Things ain’t cookin’ in my kitchen/ Strange afflictions wash over me/ Julius Caesar and the Roman Empire/ Couldn’t conquer the blue sky,’ are metaphorical references to a relationship that is troubled or failing.
The song explores the concept that within our personal space we create an environment that will reflect our emotional highs and lows and the way that others perceive us, the song resonated with fans and hit #7 in the UK, #25 in Australia and top forty in another five European countries.The promo video was shot mostly at Queenscliffe Beach (Vic) and features a Ford Thunderbird “Bullet Bird” convertible and a Fiat 600 Multipla towing a small “Sports Minor” Caravanette
Weather With You was the Crowded House song that wore its Beatles influence on its sleeve and it does remind the listener of the Fab Four’s I’m Only Sleeping, a track on their Revolver album from 1966.
The weather theme was continued in Four Seasons In One Day, the title is an expression often used to describe the changeable weather in Melbourne and the brothers felt that this also accurately reflected their emotional state. Under pressure by Capitol to produce a third album, the brothers were in a creative partnership that had started out as a Finn Brothers project only to be subsumed into a Crowded House album and at the same time they were dealing with the rollercoaster of emotions contingent on changes in their personal lives.
The 1993 award-winning promo video for the song was the first Crowded House video made in New Zealand, director Kerry Brown and producer Bruce Sheridan wanted to emphasise the surreal, fantasy elements of the song, using distinctly Kiwi imagery. Locations included beaches and dense bush on the west coast of NZ, the plains of Central Otago in the south, and the Victorian architecture of Oamaru. Scenes of an Anzac Day ceremony and marching girls also highlight the homeland setting. Brown took inspiration from Salvador Dali paintings for the psychedelic effects that were added in post-production.
This was the last single lifted from Woodface, it charted #26 in the UK and #55 in Australia, and Woodface would climb to #2 on the local album charts. Changes would take place within and around the band, Tim Finn would leave before the Woodface tour was completed, producer Mitchell Froome would be replaced by Youth (Martin Glover), on the band’s fourth album Together Alone, and Paul Hester would leave the band, and sadly take his own life in 2005.