Friday, April 03, 2009

Crowded House: "Don't Dream It's Over"

By Michael J.W. Stickings

One of my favourite film critics is Slate's Dana Stevens. Along with the NYT's A.O. Scott, TNR's Chris Orr, and one or two others, she's one of the few critics I look forward to reading week after week, and one of the few critics whose views I respect and whose reviews I value and learn from. I don't always agree with her, of course, but even in disagreement I find myself persuaded by her. Even if I read her before I see the movie, I'll often go back and re-read her review, re-engaging with her take and often deepening my understanding of the movie.

That said, I cannot let this go: In her review of Adventureland, the new movie by Greg Mottola (Superbad) -- a movie I'm really looking forward to -- Stevens notes that the movie's soundtrack "includes a few classic '80s touchstones (the Cure's "Just Like Heaven," the Replacements' "Unsatisfied") but also unearths worthy smaller hits like Crowded House's "Don't Dream It's Over." This aroused greater indignation in me than anything else I read today.

"Just Like Heaven" may be a classic '80s hit, and it may even be a touchstone of sorts, and "Unsatisfied" may be something similar, if far less so, but how is "Don't Dream It's Over" a "smaller" hit? It's one of the greatest songs of that entire decade -- and, yes, one of my favourite songs ever. Who doesn't know "hey now, hey now, don't dream it's over"? It's not just one of the greatest songs of the '80s, it's one of the few great songs of that decade that actually holds up over time. It's not dated. It's not one of those songs, like "Just Like Heaven," that one can truly appreciate only within the narrow cultural context of the '80s. Furthermore, it's not retro, a song that makes one think of one's earlier, and often more embarrassing, years, that is itself somewhat embarrassing as being from a specific time and place, a song that arouses as much laughter as nostalgia. Simply put, it's just as good now as it was then, and it's a genuine classic.

Ask around. Do people remember "Just Like Heaven"? Sure, maybe they do -- if they were Cure fans, or if they remain so even now, clinging to some long-lost youth. Do people remember "Unsatisfied"? Honestly, I doubt it -- some do, most don't. But do people remember "Don't Dream It's Over"? Yes. If they don't, just play it for them, or hum it for them, and it'll come right back. It was, and remains, far more popular than the other two songs, one of the best songs ever to come out of Australia (I'd put it ahead even of The Church's brilliant "Under the Milky Way"), a huge international hit that made Crowded House famous.

One of my friends in college, Carrie, was one of the biggest Crowded House fans ever. I was never a huge fan, more a fan of individual songs who enjoyed listening to their albums now and then, but "Don't Dream It's Over" remains for me one of my own musical touchstones. Not for any particular moment in my life, but just for being popular at a time when I was growing up, a song of that time, of my adolescence, that reminds of that time even as it transcends time and place. Pop music is all about the here and now, with so much of it stuck there, forever. Occasionally, a song, an album, maybe even an artist, breaks free and achieves greatness. I think that way of my true musical love, Pink Floyd. From the '80s, I think that way of some of The Police and some of U2 (however much I dislike them now), some of the exceptions to the musical horror of that decade. I'd put Crowded House in there, too, and especially this song.

But enough of my glowing tribute. Here it is, performed by Crowded House at their Farewell to the World concert in Sydney on November 24, 1996. Enjoy.

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  • i never listened to the other two groups- but 'don't dream it's over' was a big song. she got it backwards. i love this song. :)along with 'i want to know what love is' by foreigner. two of my faves for all time.

    By Blogger billie, at 9:51 AM  

  • I love Crowded House. I still love that song. When it came out I was a child. I only got into that song when I was a teen in the 90s. Just shows you how timeless the song truly is. It has become one of those songs that reminds me of several moments in my life...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:53 AM  

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