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Split Enz

Split Enz Mental Notes

Split Enz Album Reviews

Formed by a group of Auckland students in 1972, Split Enz are an iconic New Zealand band. With a distinctive visual image – percussionist Noel Crombie designed their costumes and album covers – their career had two distinct phases.

In their first iteration, Split Enz were an art rock band. Led by Phil Judd and Tim Finn, they played eccentric songs and wore colorful costumes, with their music sounding similar to contemporary English bands like Genesis and Roxy Music, but made distinct by the group’s New Zealand origins and Judd’s disturbing persona. Early albums, particularly 1975 debut album Mental Notes, stand up as among the band’s best, while the collection of early singles, The Beginning of the Enz, is an overlooked gem.

In 1977, Judd and original bass player Mike Chunn left the band. Judd was replaced by teenager Neil Finn, and the group’s longest serving lineup of the Finn brothers, an English rhythm section, Crombie, and musical lynch-pin, keyboardist Eddie Rayner took shape. The new lineup, coupled with the changes in the musical landscape in the late 1970s, saw the band move towards more straightforward, Beatles influenced, pop.

1979’s Frenzy was badly produced and made little impact, but the single ‘I See Red’ was a breakthrough. 1980’s True Colours, with Neil Finn’s ‘I Got You’, was a big hit in New Zealand and Australia, while 1981’s Waiata and 1982’s Time and Tide continued the success. Tim Finn launched his solo career with 1983’s Escapade, and left Split Enz. After one album without his older brother, Neil Finn opted to break up the band, and started Crowded House with newly recruited Enz drummer Paul Hester.

Because of the lineup changes and stylistic shifts, Split Enz’s catalogue is uneven – some of their albums feel uncertain and transitional. If you’re new to the band, the 2CD compilation Spellbound is an excellent option, as it provides an overview of their carer and cherry-picks the highlights from weaker albums like Frenzy and Conflicting Emotions.

I’ve covered Neil Finn’s Crowded House, but I’m woefully unfamiliar with Judd’s post-Enz albums with The Swingers and Schnell Fenster.

Ten Favourite Split Enz Songs

Sweet Dreams
Message To My Girl
Late Last Night
Six Months In A Leaky Boat
Time For A Change
Dirty Creature
Take A Walk
Another Great Divide
Spellbound
History Never Repeats

5 thoughts on “Split Enz Leave a comment

  1. Absolutely exceptional writing by two brothers with somewhat contrasting styles and character to their compositions, ranging from groundbreaking lively numbers to beautiful ballads to carnival to sea shanty to whatever. Much of this seems to be a wonderful result of the two different temperaments of Tim and Neil Finn, perhaps in a similar way that the creative and critical interplay forged classic songs of Paul McCartney and John Lennon. But a lot of credit must also go to Eddie Rayner’s arrangements – as close to greatness as any other great band’s, anywhere, anytime. A great shame that they couldn’t have kept the partnership going a bit longer – the music was extraordinarily diverse, rich and lyrical.

    Liked by 1 person

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Split Enz The Beginning of the Enz

The Beginning of the Enz – Split Enz

1979, 8.5/10. A collection of the songs that Split Enz recorded before their debut, often acoustic and pastoral, and it’s an essential appendix to the band.

Split Enz Mental Notes

Mental Notes – Split Enz

1975, 9.5/10. Split Enz’s debut is a unsettling mixture of creepy Phil Judd material, pretty ballads, and music hall vamps.

Second Thoughts Split Enz

Second Thoughts – Split Enz

1976, 8/10. Roxy Music’s Phil Manzanera produced a set that’s effectively a revised version of Mental Notes, with only two new songs.

Dizrythmia Split Enz

Dizrythmia – Split Enz

1977, 7.5/10. A transitional album, the art rock of Dizrythmia showcases Tim Finn’s work, after Phil Judd left Split Enz.

Frenzy Split Enz

Frenzy – Split Enz

1979, 5.5/10. Frenzy is an underwhelming and awkward transitional effort between Split Enz’s arty phase and their pop phase.

Split Enz True Colours

True Colours – Split Enz

1980, 7.5/10. Producer David Tickle, stripped back Split Enz’s sound to simpler rhythms and arrangements, and delivered an album of pop hits.

Waiata Split Enz

Waiata – Split Enz

1981, 7/10. A slightly weaker sequel to True Colours, Waiata boasts a couple of great singles from Neil Finn.

Split Enz Time and Tide

Time and Tide – Split Enz

1982, 9/10. The nautically themed Time and Tide is the high water point of Split Enz’s pop-era albums, with personal songs from Tim Finn.

Conflicting Emotions Split Enz

Conflicting Emotions – Split Enz

1983, 5/10. With Tim Finn distracted with his first solo album, Neil Finn wrote most of the songs for Conflicting Emotions.

Split Enz See Ya Round

See Ya Round – Split Enz

1984, 5.5/10. Split Enz’s final album features a first side written by Neil Finn, and a second side with a song from each member.

Split Enz Spellbound

Spellbound – Split Enz

1997, 9/10. An excellently selected but confusingly sequenced compilation from New Zealand’s premier pop band.

ENZSO

ENZSO – ENZSO

1996, 4.5/10. Eddie Rayner, arranged songs from Split Enz’s catalogue with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and the National Youth Choir.

ENZSO2

ENZSO 2 – ENZSO

1998, 5/10. Eddie Rayner’s skills as an arranger have increased, but ENZSO 2 suffers from the absence of The Finn Brothers’ vocals.

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