Crowded House's self-titled debut didn't gain much attention upon its release in the summer of 1986, due to insufficient promotion from Capitol Records. In wake of the weak support from Capitol, the band took matters into their own hands. Rather than setting out on an expensive large-scale tour, the band took a more low-profile route, playing acoustic sets for industry insiders and for small crowds at ethnic restaurants and in record stores. This unorthodox approach began a buzz within the industry. On the talk-show circuit, they won over American and Canadian audiences with their charm and wit as well as their wacky antics. By February of 1987, the album broke into the American Top 40, eventually peaking at number 12. The album spawned the number two hit single "Don't Dream It's Over" and "Something So Strong," which reached number seven. In Australia and New Zealand, multi-platinum success followed.
Released in 1988, Temple of Low Men was anything but a sophomore slump -- Neil Finn's new songs were among his finest, showcasing a notable progression in his songcraft. The album's slightly darker material, however, made for a more difficult listen and, although the material was stronger, the record lacked the immediate appeal of the debut. This, coupled with Capitol's lack of promotional support, led to disappointing sales -- the album barely broke the U.S. Top 40 and the single, "Better Be Home Soon," stalled at number 42. Since hope had basically run out for the album, they abandoned plans for a major U.S. tour. A three-month break in touring revitalized the band for an well-received Australian and Canadian tour, but by mid-1989 the band had effectively broken up.
Late in 1989, Neil reunited with his brother Tim and the duo began writing songs together for the first time, with the intention of releasing the material on a proposed Finn Brothers album. The collobration was successful and the duo was prolific, writing 14 songs in a very short time. After the initial sessions with Tim, Neil began working on a new set of songs, designed for the next Crowded House album, but he soon found the new material unsatisfactory. Neil decided to combine the better moments of the Finn Brothers project and the scrapped third album, adding his brother as a fourth member of Crowded House.
Crowded House's third album, Woodface, released in the summer of 1991, proved the decision to combine the material from the two scrapped records was sound -- the album certainly represents their finest recorded moments. Although the choice of "Chocolate Cake" as a leadoff single was both misleading and off-putting to American audiences, effectively sinking the album's chances of success in the US, England and Europe embraced the band for the first time. After about six months of dormancy, they began charting in the UK and Europe with several singles including the smash "Weather with You." The British success of "Weather with You" helped Woodface achieve platinum status in the UK, and led the group to several headlining concerts at Wembley Arena. Tim, for all of his invaluable contributions in the writing and recording of Woodface, proved extraneous to the band's live show. He left the band in November 1991, as the band was in the middle of their tour and just prior to their breakthrough success in England. Following the success of Woodface, both Neil and Tim Finn were awarded OBEs from the Queen of England in 1993; the honor was bestowed for their contribution to the arts.
In early 1993, Crowded House regrouped to record their fourth album, adding American guitarist Mark Hart (who had briefly toured with the band around the time of Temple of Low Men) to the band and dropping Mitchell Froom as their producer, opting instead for ex-Killing Joke member Youth. Together Alone was released in October 1993 (January 1994 in North America) to unanimously positive reviews and solid sales in every country except the United States. Upon its release, Together Alone entered the English charts at number four; at the time, Woodface was still in the UK charts. After the album was released, Crowded House embarked on a successful European tour. They were beginning an American tour when Paul Hester decided to leave the band to spend more time with his new family. Hiring a session drumer, the band rounded out the tour, eventually returning to Australia.
By the end of 1994, Neil Finn decided to cut back on the touring to work on side projects which included some production work for Dave Dobbyn and a second try at a Finn Brothers album with Tim. The Finn Brothers finally released their long-awaited duet album in the fall of 1995. In June of 1996, Neil officially broke up Crowded House. That same month, Recurring Dream: The Very Best of Crowded House was released, entering the U.K. and Australian charts at number one. After a handful of "final shows" in various locations, on Sunday November 24, 1996, Crowded House played their official farewell show at the Sydney Opera House to 100, 000 fans as a benefit for the Sydney Children's Hospital Fund.
By 1997, Paul Hester formed a new band, Largest Living Things, releasing two EPs and playing regular gigs in Australia. Neil Finn made his debut as a solo artist in June 1998 with Try Whistling This. In December 1999, Afterglow, an album's worth of Crowded House leftovers and rarities, was issued in Australia and New Zealand and in the UK, January the following year. ~ Chris Woodstra, All Music Guide