Woodface seems like the CH album the general public rates best. Whenever you see a CH album sneak into one of those Top X albums of the 90's/Australia/whatever lists, it's usually Woodface.
Fans tend to rate it lower though. I don't think it has anything to do with the songs
- like every CH album (except maybe Intriguer) it has several out-of-the-park classic songs, and the rest are very good too. I think it's more about the production. It's very well-recorded, and Neil and Tim sing wonderfully, but it just doesn't sound like a BAND the way the other albums do. It sounds like a polished studio backing group more than a unique band. Most of the time, only Paul's recognizably quirky drums save it from being completely studio-generic.
That isn't to say there aren't fantastic moments. When "Whispers and Moans" first bursts into that chiming guitar solo (which leads into the first chorus), that's a soaring, gorgeous 30 seconds of music. There are many such moments, and the arrangements are all really good. You just don't get the impression of a band interacting with each other and creating spontaneous chemistry.
This all might make it more immediately appealing to the public (once they get past Chocolate Cake
) but a bit lightweight for fans.
Some of the outtakes from Woodface - in particular Sacred Cow, maybe Dr. Livingstone too - seem to sound much more like a band, like a logical progression from Temple of Low Men, with good spontaneous energy. Woodface works very well in its own way, but I would love to eventually be able to piece together the original albums. Hopefully the eventual box set (there's been a surge of interest in that lately, or is it just me?) will make that possible. For years I've wondered about "Fields are Filled With Your Kind".