Crowded House would have the world believe that Intriguer—its sixth full-length, and the second since it reunited in 2006—is a grand reinvigoration of the veteran band’s steady, polished songcraft. Overall, that’s pretty much true. The latest iteration of the New Zealand pop institution sees leader Neil Finn running Intriguer’s 10 tracks through a barrage of various treatments and textures, from the spectral, slide-guitar twang of “Twice If You’re Lucky” to the synthetic psychedelics of the album’s soaring first single, “Saturday Sun.” Finn’s songs are as concise, tuneful, and classic as ever, though the sweet wistfulness of past work—including 2007’s Time On Earth, made after the suicide of founding member Paul Hester—is mostly absent. That Crowded House ache does surface breathtakingly on the gorgeous “Isolation” and “Even If,” a stark, brittle song punctuated by sharp piano plunks, and haunted by peripheral cello. But when Finn and company attempt to get their rock on, as they do on the vaguely Oasis-ish “Inside Out,” it dampens the disc’s dynamic rather than enhances it. As promised, Intriguer is indeed Crowded House with a fresh layer of wallpaper. The thing is, the group has always been timeless enough not to need it.
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