Formed in 1985 from the ashes of Split Enz, the Australian band Crowded House recorded some of the most appealing pop-rock singles of the late '80s and early '90s, before breaking up in 1996. A recent reunion has already spawned a fine new album, Time on Earth, and an ambitious tour. Crowded House will headline a concert from WXPN and World Café Live in Philadelphia on Friday at noon ET; Joan as Police Woman will open the show.
Though they failed to duplicate the success of the band's early Top 10 hits "Don't Dream It's Over" and "Something So Strong," subsequent albums such as Temple of Low Men and Together Alone found Crowded House in top form. A rocky decade followed the group's dissolution — drummer Paul Hester committed suicide in 2005 — but Time on Earth picks up more or less where Crowded House left off, with another batch of tuneful and bittersweet pop-rock gems.
Opener Joan Wasser, leader of Joan as Police Woman, creates a powerful blend of classic soul and experimental rock that's as engaging as it is original. After studying violin at Boston University, Wasser played violin for local acts like Hot Trix before joining The Dambuilders, to whom her musical contributions proved invaluable. After the group broke up, Wasser continued to play in bands (the underrated Those Bastard Souls) and contribute to works by Sheryl Crow and Rufus Wainwright, among others. At the same time, she was always developing her own material, and the introduction of drummer Ben Perowsky and bassist Rainy Orteca facilitated the formation of Joan as Police Woman in 2002.
First released in the U.K. a year ago, Joan as Police Woman's debut full-length, Real Life, is only now seeing domestic release. Driven by a subtly shifting combination of piano, strings and guitar, the record serves as an intimate, challenging document of raw human emotions.