Many reviewers (with obvious justification) are looking to compare this latest album with CH's and Neil's previous work. At times, the comparisons are, for me, fairly obvious. 'You Are The One To Make Me Cry' is very reminiscent of 'All I Ask', given the slow-paced, mellow string arrangement, but if anything it's better, due to a glorious vocal and somehow sounding even more mellifluous. Then there's the brooding, dark bass line at the end of 'Silent House', with a layer of crunching rock guitar, which has a similar feel to the rock-out ending of 'Suffer Never' from the Finn Brothers album, particularly if you've seen it performed live.
For me, though, the most meaningful comparison to make is to contemporary albums from the likes of, say, Travis or Coldplay. And, quite frankly, this album just blows them away, even though I'm personally a fan of both bands. Chris Martin talks of four-part harmonies on 'Fix You', but Neil, Nick, Mark and Matt just get on and do it, seamlessly and effortlessly, on practically every track. Rarely in recent years has a band managed to produce such a soundscape. Neil Finn is unquestionably one of the best songwriters alive, and his gift is in matching the feel and mood of the sound, sometimes in contrasting ways, to the depth of the lyrics.
After a few plays, all the new hooks fill your head. Even though it's one of the darkest, moodiest and arguably even the most plodding CH song you'll hear, 'Say That Again' is aural magic. 'She Called Up' was a necessity on this album, with its kicking, stomping tomfoolery - it's what Hester would have done had he still been with us, the 'Sister Madly' of the new album. 'Even A Child' rings out in my head several times a day, and 'Silent House' is poignant for me, as one of the kindest, warmest people I ever knew contracted Alzheimer's and became a shadow of his former self - exactly the theme, and mood, of the track.
Listen to this a few times and it all makes sense, and is instantly one of the best albums in years. I'm just delighted to see them back, as I became a fan the moment they were splitting up - and I'll finally get to see them live (albeit without a wonderful missing musician).
Incidentally, I disagree with Adam's review below. I have a very good Arcam hi-fi separates set up, and this album comes across with well separated instruments, rich bass and plenty of musical nuances. I suggest he upgrades his equipment if he thinks this album has been poorly produced or engineered.