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EMI

MUSIC INFO
Director:
Various
Cast:
Various
Writing Credits:
NA

MPAA:
Not Rated.

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Standard 1.33:1
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby Stereo
Subtitles:
None
Not closed-captioned

Runtime: 82 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 10/1/2002

Bonus:
• “Catch 22” Interview


PURCHASE
DVD

Search Products:

EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Crowded House: Dreaming - The Videos (2002)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 4, 2003)

Does anybody else miss Crowded House? While bandleader Neil Finn continues to produce some nice material on his own, I thought CH worked as the best setting for him. I can’t state that I ever felt a tremendous passion for the group, but I really liked all four of their albums and would happily greet a reunion.

In lieu of that, I’ll just have to re-experience their wealth of fine material. Until now, I needed to depend solely on auditory representations, but with the release of Dreaming, I can now watch the band while I listen. This set of music videos includes a whopping 21 tracks that span their start with 1986’s hit Crowded House and span up to 1996’s greatest hits compilation Recurring Dream.

For the most part, the collection divides fairly evenly among the different releases. From the debut album Crowded House, we find five tracks: “Mean to Me”, “Now We’re Getting Somewhere”, “Don’t Dream It’s Over”, “Something So Strong”, and “World Where You Live”. 1988’s Temple of Low Men didn’t live up to the first album’s commercial success, but it still provided great music, and the DVD features five of its songs: “Better Be Home Soon”, “Sister Madly”, “When You Come”, “Into Temptation” and “I Feel Possessed”.

1991's Woodface added a new band member: Tim Finn, who previously worked with brother Neil in Split Enz. Woodface presents another five numbers: "It's Only Natural", "Chocolate Cake", "Fall At Your Feet", "Four Seasons In One Day" and "Weather With You". The band's last full album, 1994's Together Alone gives us four tracks: "Distant Sun", "Locked Out", "Nails In My Feet" and "Private Universe". Lastly, Recurring Dream ends with two songs: "Not the Girl You Think You Are" and "Everything Is Good For You".

Musically, Dreaming seems excellent. I can’t say I honestly dislike any of the 21 songs, though some appear less satisfying than others. For me, tracks like “Now We’re Getting Somewhere” and “Sister Madly” just feel a little too whimsical and quirky for my liking. “Chocolate Cake” and “Weather With You” also veer into that territory, but they rein in their excesses a bit better. Again, I enjoy all of these songs, but I find them less likable than most of the others.

While not significantly flawed, the final two tracks come across as somewhat bland. Neil always had a way with hooks, and most CH songs seem absurdly catchy. Not so for “Not the Girl You Think You Are” and “Everything Is Good For You”, which feel a bit limp and lackluster. Frankly, they come across as contractual obligation numbers that appeared just to add “new” content to the greatest hits album.

Once we get past these songs, however, Dreaming doesn’t falter for a moment. Of course, relative differences still occur. For example, I prefer “Mean to Me” to “Into Temptation” and I’d take “Distant Sun” over “Fall At Your Feet”. However, the overall caliber of material remains stunningly positive. As I listen to these tracks, I find it even less comprehendible that Crowded House failed to achieve enormous commercial success; pop/rock doesn’t get much better than this.

Unfortunately, that level of quality doesn’t recur in the band’s videos. Frankly, the 21 clips found on Dreaming pretty much run the gamut from amateurish to silly. When I discussed the music, I singled out the weaker songs as exceptions since most of them seem so good. In the case of the videos, however, it’ll be much easier to comment upon to ones that work since so many of them reek.

Actually, “reek” seems like an awfully strong term, as only a few of the videos actively stink. The first few are absurdly cheap and amateurish, and not in a charming way. Instead, they look like a hyperactive monkey assembled them.

Otherwise, the videos mostly just come across as dull and monotonous. Usually we see the band lip-synch and act a little goofy. A lot of the time the directors toss out random imagery that seems to enjoy no actual connection to the song in question. The clips do nothing to enhance the music; instead, they just look busy and visually chaotic, as pointless effects fly at us. Even when the material does relate to the lyrics, it seems superficial any cheesy; for example, as Neil sings “I would risk my neck” during “Four Seasons In One Day”, we see his disembodied head. That doesn’t exactly seem creative or inspired to me.

Some seem simpler and more effective than others, but literally none of them stands out as distinctly enjoyable. Clips like “Something So Strong” and “Better Be Home Soon” keep things basic enough that they don’t distract from the music. Nonetheless, they fail to create a visual experience that helps add to the material.

Given the band’s low commercial profile for most of their career, I’d not seen most of these videos before I obtained Dreaming. Unfortunately, I can’t say that I expect I’ll ever want to watch them again. While the music seems excellent, the videos do nothing to enhance the material, and they often actively detracted from the songs. Dreaming provides one of the weakest collections of music videos I’ve encountered.


The DVD Grades: Picture D+ / Audio C / Bonus C-

Crowded House: Dreaming appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. As with many music video collections, the dimensions of these clips actually varied somewhat. Most used 1.33:1, but other ratios appeared. “Now We’re Getting Somewhere” displayed very mild letterboxing and seemed to be about 1.5:1, while “Distant Sun” went to approximately 1.66:1. “Don’t Dream It’s Over” looked like it featured 1.78:1.

The quality of the clips also varied, but unfortunately, they usually presented fairly unattractive visuals. While they generally seemed typical for their eras, the videos nonetheless displayed more concerns than I expected. Unsurprisingly, the earliest numbers looked the ugliest. Apparently shot on 16mm film, “Mean to Me” and “Now We’re Getting Somewhere” presented very unattractive visuals. They suffered from flat and listless colors as well as imprecise focus, gobs of grain and many other print flaws.

Once we got past those videos, the rest seemed more consistent, though they generally remained pretty drab. Sharpness appeared moderately weak. Many of the clips looked fairly soft and indistinct. Focus didn’t come across as atrocious, but the clips usually displayed some gauzy and hazy images. Jagged edges and moiré effects remained minor, but edge enhancement noticeably marred many of the videos. In addition, source materials showed up for some of the clips even after the first pair; I occasionally noticed significant examples of speckles, hairs and scratches elsewhere.

Colors tended to appear murky and loose. The tones depended on the visual styling of the videos, but even when I considered those constraints, the hues generally were too muddy and messy. Black levels looked reasonably dense, though they sometimes demonstrated inky qualities. Shadow detail was acceptably distinct but not any better than average. Admittedly, I didn’t expect much from the quality of these videos and the visuals did improve as the years passed, but Dreaming still seemed weaker than most collections, and even the newest ones seemed moderately unattractive.

While I didn’t think I’d get very good visual quality from Dreaming, I did anticipate solid audio. Unfortunately, the DVD’s Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack seemed spotty. On the positive side, the stereo imaging worked fine. Despite the extension into the 5.1 realm, Dreaming largely remained oriented toward the front, and the track essentially felt like standard stereo. Surround usage appeared very passive, as the rear speakers offered mild reinforcement of the music at best. That seemed fine with me, however, as the stereo presentation sounded well delineated and accurate.

Unfortunately, the quality of the audio suffered at times. The main culprit came from excessive bass presence. During many of the songs, low-end material truly overwhelmed the other elements. This problem occurred with no rhyme or reason. The first three songs on Dreaming displayed overwhelming bass, but then it cleaned up with “Something So Strong” and it stayed that way for a few more numbers. However, the heavy low-end returned with “When You Come”, and the subsequent tracks varied through the end of the package. The heavy bass clearly didn’t stem from the original recordings, and I honestly have no idea why it marred some songs but not others.

Without the dense and murky low-end response, the audio of Dreaming seemed fine. When I could hear them through the muck, vocals sounded natural and distinct, and high-end instrumentation appeared clean and concise. Those elements never came across as shrill or harsh, and they were appropriately bright and clear. Some songs fared worse than others due to issues related to the source; for example, “Locked Out” has always been muddy and flat, so I can’t complain that the DVD offered that same sound. Roughly half of Dreaming presented fairly good audio, but the other half dragged down my grade to a “C”.

One supplement appears on Dreaming: a Catch 22 Interview piece. Taken from an Alaskan TV show, this 25-minute and 40-second program appears to come from 1986 or 1987. The era seems unclear; they band plays “Better Be Home Soon” and “Sister Madly”, but they mention only five music videos under their belt, which makes me think it took place before the 1988 release of Low Men. I’d guess that they road-tested some Low Men songs and this clip indeed comes prior to that album’s release.

In any case, “Catch 22” mixes some live performance shots, lots of music video clips, and some comments from the band. We also see a few candid bits such as the band around town and at a record signing. Not much of this adds up to anything, and the interviews don’t offer a lot of insight. They mock Sting – who they call “String” – and that seems funny, but otherwise, “Catch 22” provides a pretty lackluster extra.

That appears appropriate given the fairly bland quality of the music videos found on Crowded House’s Dreaming. While the music seems consistently positive, the videos come across as uninspired at best and cheap and annoying at worst. Not a single one feels particularly charming or entertaining. The DVD suffers from fairly weak visuals plus sound that displays oddly excessive bass response. The disc’s one extra doesn’t contribute much either. Die-hard Crowded House fans will still probably want to own Dreaming, but I find it hard to recommend it even to those folks. Others who want a basic introduction to the band’s music should stick with the audio-only release of Recurring Dream; you’ll get most of the same songs and they’ll sound much better than they do here.

(For the record, here are the musical variations between Dreaming and Recurring Dream. The CD omits “Now We’re Getting Somewhere”, “Sister Madly”, “Chocolate Cake”, and “Nails in My Feet”. It adds “Pineapple Head” and “Instinct”.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.1666 Stars Number of Votes: 6
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