The brothers re-bonded over the writing and recording of The Finn album in 94/95, they were both relaxed and enjoying each other’s company, Tim had found a new partner, Filipino Marie Azcona, 19 years his junior, (couple pictured below) whom he would marry in 1997.The brothers were holidaying together on the Cook Islands with their families, and this was reflected in the playful and free-wheeling nature of their songs. The album climbed to #21 in Aust and was a surprise #15 charter in the UK. By 1995 Capitol had released Crowded House from their contract, Paul Hester had departed, and Seymour was the only one who wanted to carry on, but Neil was adamant that the House was closed.In 1996 the band would crash into the charts again with a compilation album entitled Recurring Dream, it was #1 in Aust, NZ and the UK, and top twenty throughout Europe and in Canada, selling a million copies in Australia and more than 1.6 million copies in the UK alone, and globally sales exceeded 3 million, there was still a lot of love for Crowded House, albeit outside the USA.At the age of 40 Neil was embarking on a solo career, he was inspired by Beck’s album Odelay and its sprawling soundscape which embraced alternarock, folk rock, rap rock, and hip hop, his past credits ensured that he would have the support of a major record label, but they wanted to promote him as the new post-Genesis Peter Gabriel, which he quite rightly rejected. He was gathering some fellow travelers around him on his new musical journey, they included guitarist Jim Moginie (Midnight Oil), artist Robert Moore, and programmer /producer Marius de Vries.His solo debut was Try Whistling This (1998) which was a family affair, son Elroy designed the cover art, Sharon sang backup, and eldest son Liam added drums and guitar on several tracks, it was experimental, melancholic, and quirky, and a surprise hit at #1 in Aust and NZ. She Will Have Her Way was the second single lifted off the album and unsurprisingly it had a Crowded House ambience accompanied by a Split Enz-style video. The monochrome clip features a giantess capturing, carrying off, and eventually marrying Neil Finn. It was a spoof of the 1958 B-movie Attack of the 50 Foot Woman and the 1959 Lou Costello/Dorothy Provine comedy The 30 Foot Bride of Candy Rock, and the video includes clips from both films – it was zany, quirky, indulgent, and the Brits took it into the top 40 there.
By the time Neil was ready to release his second solo album his mother Mary Finn had passed away in October 2000, the brothers shelved their individual projects, but were now inspired by the memory of their mother to begin a collaboration together on a new album, something that Mary would have heartily approved of. Everyone Is Here by the Finn Brothers, would be released four years later, in 2004 and climb to the top of the ARIA charts in August of that year. In 2005 Paul Hester would sadly take his own life, “Hester the Jester” was only 46 years old, he left behind his wife Mardi Sommerfeld and their young daughters Sunday and Olive, the Finn brothers dedicated their performances that week at Albert Hall (London) to Paul. Remarkably Crowded House would resoundingly return to the charts again in 2007 with an album of new songs Time on Earth which charted top 2 in Aust and NZ, #4 in the UK and top thirty in three European countries, House fans declared, “don’t dream its over’! The cover art by Nick Seymour featured a blue dragon eating a human, which symbolized former band member Paul Hester being consumed by depression, symbolized by the blue dragon, which brought his time on earth to a premature end. The tree on the right of the illustration symbolised the tree where Hester hanged himself in the Elsternwick Gardens (Melb).
Recorded in the UK at Roundhead Studios, RAK Studios, and Realworld Studios with Ethan Johns and Steve Lilywhite producing, Time on Earth was greeted with the due reverence demanded of a master of his craft, as Neil Finn surely was, but the album suffered from a little too much craft and not enough soul. Neil Finn was accompanied by Nick Seymour (bass), Mark Hart (guitar/piano), Matt Sherrod (drums, percussion) and ex-Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr (below). The lead single Don’t Stop Now, was inspired by Sharon Finn’s experience trying to use a satnav system whist driving their car along the narrow roads of the English countryside around Bath, where the Finns were now residing. The promo video was primarily animation with band members filmed on green screen, it was a modest hit climbing to #34 in Aust and #41 in the UK, Crowded House were duly inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in 2016.Tim and Neil Finn left a towering musical legacy, their slightly left-of-centre musical tastes ultimately resonated with a broad global fan base, led initially by the intellectually acute, socially aware, slightly pretentious, and emotionally fragile older brother Tim, and then finally by his younger brother Neil, a more focused, commercially savvy, wary, and controlling person, who would lead Crowded House to great international success. The combined catalogues of the Enz and the House would confirm the status of the Finn brothers from Te Awamutu as the most important figures in the history of New Zealand contemporary music, and after sheep, mountains, the All Blacks, Dame Kiri, sauvignon blanc, and swallowed vowels, Split Enz and Crowded House remain two of the country’s most recognisable icons.