Mental Notes is Split Enz’s debut album, recorded in Australia. It’s an unsettling mixture of creepy Phil Judd material, pretty ballads, and music hall vamps. While it sounds inspired by bands like Genesis, Judd’s psychotic vocals and disturbing subject matter, as well as the dual front-man approach, give Mental Notes a unique atmosphere. The production values are low, giving Mental Notes a murky and unclear veneer, but that only adds to its mystique.
Judd’s at his most disturbing on songs like ‘Under The Wheel’, with chilling lyrics like “Death/Is just another appointment to keep.” There’s bouncy, music hall inspired pop on ‘Amy (Darling)’ and ‘Maybe’, while Judd’s voice imbues ‘Spellbound’ with mystique. There are also pretty songs like the acoustic ‘Titus’, where the more pure voice of Tim Finn provides a contrast to Judd, and Finn fronts the beautiful ‘Time For A Change’.
Mental Notes was a breakthrough album for New Zealand rock music, as previously New Zealand acts hadn’t produced many noteworthy albums. It’s often ranked high among surveys of New Zealand’s best ever albums, and deservedly so.