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Crowded House Won't 'Stop' Sparkling Sadly

An air of regret often hangs over Crowded House's bittersweet reunion album.
An air of regret often hangs over Crowded House's bittersweet reunion album.

Though its career as a hit-maker dried up shortly after its 1986 debut, Crowded House continued to churn out glorious power-pop singles through the early '90s, following the Top 10 gems "Don't Dream It's Over" and "Something So Strong" with a sturdy string of tracks that deftly balance briskness and melancholy. The decade that followed the band's 1996 breakup wasn't terribly kind: New Zealand-born singer Neil Finn's solo career didn't duplicate Crowded House's success, and former drummer Paul Hester committed suicide in 2005.

Unsurprisingly, an air of regret often hangs over the group's bittersweet reunion album, Time on Earth, which eulogizes Hester amid an assortment of songs that sparkle more ruefully than ever before. Still, "Don't Stop Now" more than lives up to the worthy tradition of such lesser-known Crowded House gems as 1991's "It's Only Natural" and 1993's "Distant Sun."

For all its brisk, brightly glowing hooks, "Don't Stop Now" is no throwaway, as Finn searches for inspiration ("Give me something I can write about") when he's not clinging to any emotional investment he can find ("Give me something I can cry about"). It's a poignant return to form for a band whose comeback warrants celebration, even as Finn seems to be searching in vain for the meaning behind it.

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Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)