Released several years after the breakup of the original lineup of Crowded House, Afterglow was a collection of songs that had been relegated to B-sides, to soundtracks, and sometimes to the cutting room floor, never making it to an album but becoming a favorite in the band’s live show. There was material concurrent with all four of the band’s studio albums at the time, and it was something of a bittersweet revelation of how prolific the band was.
But if the original release was a fond reminder of that, the deluxe expanded 2-CD edition is a jaw-dropping revelation. It was known that, after the departure of Paul Hester from the drum seat, an attempt was made to soldier onward with Peter Jones, who had toured with the band after Hester’s abrupt mid-tour exit in 1994. Jones was heard on drums on the original Afterglow‘s incredibly atmospheric track “Help Is Coming”, so obvious some recording was done with him. But the biggest surprise of the second disc is a stretch of material revealing just how much was recorded with Jones – a series of songs that basically amount to an album side. So yes, the deluxe edition of Afterglow brings us half of a Crowded House album that could have been, and really should have been, because the studio demos are so polished – and just as atmospheric as “Help Is Coming” – that they’re sharper than some bands’ final studio masters, and they reveal a band that could very well have continued despite the unplanned personnel change.
After Neil Finn’s home demos of such songs as “Instinct” and “Everything Is Good For You”, the Finn/Seymour/Hart/Jones lineup returns with “Anthem”, a song Finn unearthed from the archives as a charity single a few years earlier, and while it lacks the polish of a finished track, it does show an arrangement that’s been worked out an honed, complete with vocal harmonies. The next track by this post-Together Alone lineup is even more surprising, featuring Mark Hart singing lead on a song that he wrote, “I Don’t Know You”. Again, the song is presented in a somewhat rough state, but one with a lot of promise. Hart eventually reclaimed “I Don’t Know You” for his solo album Nada Sonata, but there’s something stripped-down, bluesy, and incredibly catchy about the Crowded House rendition that may well make it superior to Hart’s final studio version. This should’ve been a single, though one wonders how a single without Finn’s voice (or writing credit) front and center might have been able to navigate the band’s complex internal politics.
Even more songs follow, including the trippy “A Taste Of Something Divine”, which could almost be in late ’90s U2’s wheelhouse rather than what anyone would’ve been expecting from Crowded House. If this is what the band could’ve accomplished with Jones on drums, it’s kind of a glimpse into an alternate universe where Together Alone was followed by even edgier, more out-there changes in style.
Following a nice, folksy rendition of “Spirit Of The Stairs” (a favorite in the Crowdies’ live set), this lineup drops one last surprise with a hard-hitting rendition of “Loose Tongue”, a song which eventually migrated to Finn’s first solo album, 1998’s Try Whistling This. Upon hearing that album in 1998, I remember asking myself “Why was it necessary to break up Crowded House to do this album?”, and this version of “Loose Tongue” really brings that question back. There was very little of Try Whistling This that couldn’t have been done by the full Crowded House lineup.
But the alternate timeline in which Crowded House with Peter Jones in tow ventures into more adventurous musical territory ends there; the rest of disc two is rounded out with the three “new” songs from the 1996 greatest hits album, “Instinct”, “Not The Girl You Think You Are”, and “Everything Is Good For You”, all of them “safer”, more traditional Crowded House songs with Mitchell Froom at the mixing board and Paul Hester on drums.
The musical equivalent of deleted scenes is what Afterglow was always about, but the expanded edition offers a truly eye-opening glimpse into what could have been if Together Alone had been but the beginning of an experimental phase, and not the end of one. Very few expanded reissues of existing albums justify the double-dip like this one does.
- I Am In Love (4:37)
- Sacred Cow (3:36)
- You Can Touch (3:45)
- Help Is Coming (4:48)
- I Love You Dawn (2:33)
- Dr. Livingston (3:56)
- My Tellys’ Gone Bung (3:10)
- Private Universe (4:07)
- Lester (2:19)
- Anyone Can Tell (3:35)
- Recurring Dream (3:23)
- Left Hand (2:57)
- Time Immemorial (4:06)
- I Am In Love (Home Demo) (2:07)
- Instinct (Home Demo) (2:03)
- Spirit Of The Stairs (Home Demo) (3:39)
- I’m So Scared Of Losing I Can’t Compete (Home Demo) (2:11)
- Everything Is Good For You (Home Demo) (3:14)
- Not The Girl You Think You Are (Home Demo) (3:00)
- Anthem (3:31)
- I Don’t Know You (Studio Demo) (3:40)
- A Taste Of Something Divine (Studio Demo) (4:14)
- Spirit Of The Stairs (Studio Demo) (4:55)
- Loose Tongue
- Rough Mix (3:51)
- Instinct (3:06)
- Everything Is Good For You (3:52)
- Not The Girl You Think You Are (4:08)
Released by: Capitol Records
Release date: November 18, 2016
Disc one running time: 46:51
Disc two running time: 47:31