"Pianos play by themselves and dark forces conjure suspicious shadows": Crowded House make for uneasy listening on Gravity Stars

Neil Finn's band make thoughtful, complicated, contemplative return

Crowded House: Gravity Stars cover art
(Image: © BMG)

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Since the sad loss of the band’s original drummer Paul Hester in 2005, nearly all of Crowded House’s albums have required a patient ear. 

Gravity Stairs is no exception. Gone (for the most part) are the familiar pop hooks that dominated those early records, exchanged for more thoughtful, complicated arrangements as frontman Neil Finn contemplates his own mortality. 

Dreamy opener Magic Piano drives this particular thought as he imagines hiking up his own stairway to heaven, while pianos play by themselves and dark forces conjure suspicious shadows.

The same downbeat approach also inhabits the melancholic Some Greater Plan (For Claire) and the comforting Thirsty. Thankfully the record isn’t devoid of moments of joy, as the jaunty Life’s Imitation and the wistful jangle of The Howl, show flecks of the band’s earlier years. Gravity Stairs is not an easy listen, but it is one worth sticking with.

Damian Jones

Freelance journalist for Classic Rock, NME, Sky News, Bandcamp Daily, The Sports Network (TSN), NewsBreak, Uncut Magazine, Festival Flyer, The British Music Digest.