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Shark Attack by Split Enz

Split Enz True Colours

I think that, regardless of our musical differences, we can all agree that the current decade has been tough for sharks in popular music. We all ironically enjoyed the performance of the “Left Shark” in Katy Perry’s 2015 Superbowl show, but it certainly didn’t help the reputation of our oceans’ most fearsome predator.

And the Left Shark incident pales into insignificance next to the monstrosity that is ‘Baby Shark’. If you haven’t heard it, then continue to blissfully avoid it if you want to preserve your ear-ginity. But it’s a repetitive, infantile ditty that’s taken on a life of its own, breaking out of playcentres and kindergartens and into nightclubs.

I’m certainly not one of those old grumps who thinks that the quality of popular music has declined, but it seems clear that for a good song about sharks, we’re going to have go back in time a little. Split Enz started as an art rock band in the early 1970s, but as punk hit and their lineup changed, they edged towards new wave flavoured pop in the late 1970s.

Young producer David Tickle had produced the minor hit ‘I See Red’, but the parent album Frenzy was disappointing. The group reconnected with Tickle for 1980’s True Colours, and he helped the group achieve a more streamlined sound, simpler and more rhythmic. While Neil Finn’s ‘I Got You’ is the best known track from True Colours, older brother Tim’s ‘Shark Attack’ was the album’s opener in its initial edition.

Tim’s my least favoured of the three Split Enz songwriters – I prefer Phil Judd’s weirdness and Neil Finn’s pop sense. But he came up with his share of good pop songs, and ‘Shark Attack’ is one of them, straddling the sometimes difficult line between his frenzied persona and his melodic sense, and allowing for a series of (actually quite good) love/shark metaphors.

‘Shark Attack’ brings back memories of when I was 16; I bought Split Enz’s History Never Repeats compilation, and it didn’t leave my tape deck for several weeks. These days I prefer their early Phil Judd days, but there are great pop songs from the Neil Finn years as well.

The album art and the introduction of vinyl etching for True Colours also has an interesting story – you can read more about it at Vinyl Connection’s site.

Love’s got teeth and she bites so hard
Leaving you for dead like a deadly shark
And she doesn’t leave a lot to be saved

I was swimming in the harbor of your smile
Splashing in the ocean like a child
I didn’t know what dangers lurked there
Just beyond the waves
Shark attack

Well she chewed me up and she spat me out
I didn’t want to meet a man eater
Shark attack

Please don’t mess around with me
I’m a shark fatality, in the sea
I’m the one with the bleeding heart

I thought you were a real lifesaver
And life for once would do me a favor
But baby’s just a butcher, and her teeth are razor sharp
Shark attack

Yeah she chewed me up and she spat me out
I didn’t want to meet a man eater
Shark attack

And I’m lost at sea and I’m an amputee
And there was slaughter in the water when I fought her
Shark attack

Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey!

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