On Frenzy, Split Enz transitioned into shorter songs, although they’re still self-consciously arty. The result is one of the group’s weaker albums, which is not helped by an unclear sound from inexperienced producer Mallory Earl, compounded by the decision to add previously recorded single ‘I See Red’ to the album, taking the first side of the LP past the optimum length for sound quality. It was surprising hearing the remixed version of ‘Stuff and Nonsense’ on the Spellbound compilation, where there was a gorgeous acoustic guitar part that was previously inaudible.
The group have stated that the Frenzy album didn’t capture the excellence of demo tapes they recorded, which were later released as the Rootin Tootin Luton Tapes in 2007, and Tim’s ‘Semi-Detached’, an excellent out-take that also appears on Spellbound, also demonstrates that Frenzy didn’t showcase the best material the group had on hand at the time.
There are a few great songs here; the single ‘I See Red’ was added to later copies of the album, and it effectively launched the group’s career in New Zealand and Australia, while ‘Give It A Whirl’, co-written by Neil, also brings a heavy guitar attack. ‘Hermit McDermitt’ is a demented sing-along, while ‘Stuff And Nonsense’ is a vulnerable Tim ballad. But the second half of Frenzy is tough going, especially with the poor sound.
Frenzy was remixed and re-released in 2006, and I imagine that the new version is more enjoyable, and that the Rootin Tootin Luton Tapes are also worth checking out. But in its original form, Frenzy is an underwhelming and awkward transitional effort between Split Enz’s arty phase and their pop phase.