In 1988, Crowded House released their second album, Temple of Low Men. I was very familiar with this band, loving their hits Don’t Dream It’s Over and Something So Strong, from their eponymous first album, which both got a ton of radio play. I, of course, didn’t have the first album on cassette, and no prospect on the horizon (you can read my previous music posts on the reasons). But, Temple of Low Men on cassette entered my life as a Christmas present in December 1988. It didn’t connect with me until March 1989 when I listened to it on repeat on the road from Sudbury, Ontario to Altamonte Springs, Florida on the ol’ walkman while on a Spring Break vacation with the family. Temple of Low Men has a certain misty and mysterious air to it that connects the listener to the Australian outback, but really connected with me in terms of the imagery I was witnessing on the road – the palm trees, arid highways, and advertisements for alligator farms.
The cassette left my life long ago, and I never did replace it with another copy until a road trip almost three summers ago took me to a Beat Goes On in Cambridge, Ontario, where I swiped a copy on CD in the remainder bin for $6.99. I was like a kid on Christmas all over again! I immediately cracked ‘er open and had it play in the car stereo. Its dreamy sounds over the speakers, and the air conditioning on my legs brought me right back to the warm humid air of Florida. It also reminded me of how much in love with this album I was at 14.
Amazing how I remember every lyric and every song to Temple of Low Men, and it had been years since I took this one for a spin! Each track is completely singable! Of course, it helps to have songs that you want to sing along to, and pretty much all of them fall into that category. Also helpful is the harmonies developed by Neil Finn, Nick Seymour and Paul Hester that aid to create such full-bodied songs. It’s exciting to think that three dudes produced such fulsome material.
The track from this album that most people are familiar with is Better Be Home Soon, which was the first single released, and funny enough, appears last on the album. This sweet melody got a lot of air time in Canada, peaking at number 8 on the charts. But, none of the tracks on Temple of Low Men should be ignored, all are strong in their own right.
I Feel Possessed and Kill Eye, the first and second song on the album respectively, set the tone for a dreamy bayou feel. Back in high-school, I loved Kill Eye so much it would appear on some of my mixed tapes, just for the hell of it.
Moving down the track list, things slow right down to Crowded House’s somber Into Temptation, the album’s third track. I have to admit to really loving this song in high school and is about the only song on the album that isn’t upbeat. Listening to it today, I have to say it’s my least favourite. I remember this song playing on MuchMusic back in the day. Today, I often skip the track, moving on to the more upbeat songs on the album.
When You Come, the fifth song on the album is, hands-down my favourite song on Temple of Low Men. It never used to be (Kill Eye was), but I suppose my tastes have changed. A steel guitar strums at the start that leads the listener into an up-tempo melody. It’s a beautiful song musically and lyrically:
I’ll know you by the thunderclap
pouring like a rain of blood to my emotions
and that is why I stumble to my knees
and why underneath the heavens
with its stars burning and exploding
I know I could never let you down
It reminds me of climbing a mountain, reaching the apex to a view that is out of this world…you hear a crash and Neil Finn screaming. The best use of a ride cymbal I’ve ever heard!
Depending on whether you were listening to this on cassette or CD, Never Be the Same, the next song on the album, was the first song on the second side of the cassette version. Here, listening to it on CD, it appears immediately following When You Come. To me, the songs sound very similar, even in tempo, but I don’t hold that against it – it is still quite a good listen.
Things mellow out with the calming Love This Life, which if you listen to the lyrics reminds us that through all of life’s problems, it’s still be good. The sweet harmonies in this one will compel you to sing along.
Sister Madly follows with its Hawaiian flare. You get a real treat in a distinct guitar solo that was fashioned by non other than guitarist Richard Thompson of Fairport Convention fame.
It amazed me back then that none of my peers listened to this Crowded House album, let alone own the album. It’s almost like they wrote the band off after the popularity of their first album. Temple of Low Men really holds some strong musical memories for me. Every song is wonderful, and I obviously still love it to this day. Take it for a spin, and you’ll see how awesome it is for yourself!