Crowded House Time on Earth (Parlophone) Even the most compulsive pop completists resist buying albums that accompany lucrative comebacks. It's an unwritten jurisprudence inspired by the work of Mick Jagger over the past 25 years: we might catch a Stones gig every decade or so, but let's not pretend, Mick, that the albums are any good. The opening half of Crowded House's first album in 14 years leaves us wondering why Neil Finn has spoiled his band's perfect, free, farewell concert outside the Sydney Opera House in 1996. We're used to Crowded House albums kicking off with the cleanest hooks and most likely singles. The first track, Nobody Wants To and Don't Stop Now lack the old fizz, as well as the more recent oblique, lo-fi experiments of Finn's solo work. She Called Up catches the attention by taking Finn (right, at last weekend's Live Earth concert in Sydney) closer than he'd previously dared to the kooky, toy-store sound of Split Enz, that other great band the New Zealander folded - and reformed. Split Enz keyboardist Eddie Rayner contributes to two tunes, joining Finn's two sons and wife as extra hands. The album only wakes at the sixth offering, Even a Child, co-written with former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr. The tension between Finn's understatement and the more expansive musicianship of guitarist Mark Hart and new drummer Matt Sherrod makes Silent House a sombre epic. English Garden has the melancholy of Temple of Low Men, the band's most underrated album. By track 12, Transit Lounge, we're finally starting to see what Finn's getting at. Opening with a German airport announcement, it holds the Euro sensibility and suggest that riffs and hooks have been avoided on this album to leave room for whatever is new in Crowded House since the suicide of drummer Paul Hester in 2005. Although it only leads to two final flat tracks, You Are the One to Make Me Cry and People Are Like Suns, Transit Lounge has enough to force the listener to start the album again, to see what else will reveal itself. This isn't Crowded House's best album, but it leaves the hope that the foursome continue recording until their new shape is formed.