The Beginning of the Enz
The Beginning of the Enz is a collection of the nine Split Enz tracks released on the singles leading up to their 1975 debut Mental Notes. It’s not to be confused with another compilation of the same name that collates highlights from their early albums.
The material on The Beginning of the Enz is different in feel than Mental Notes; less intense, and not as ambitious as the multi-part suites of their first album. Without Eddie Rayner’s keyboards on the first five tracks, the band’s sound is markedly different, based around acoustic guitars and flute. There’s a pastoral feel, but with a distinctly New Zealand flavour, like the “Maori strum” guitar rhythm of ‘Spellbound’.
These songs are some of Split Enz’s most obscure, not often ending up on compilations, but they’re some of the band’s best work, tuneful pieces from a fresh young band. Some of these songs were reworked for later albums; ‘129’ later became ‘Matinee Idyll’, but it’s already excellent here, while ‘Spellbound’ was reworked for Mental Notes and ‘Lovey Dovey’ for Second Thoughts. The album starts with ‘Split Ends’ (the band’s original name), with its memorable line “Writing letters to my friends/Telling them all about Split Enz.” There are pretty acoustic songs like ‘For You’ and more idiosyncratic pieces like ‘Sweet Talking Spoon Song’ and ‘Malmsbury Villa’, but they’re all excellent.
It’s a world away from the new wave hits that Split Enz are most remembered for, but there’s a lot of great material on The Beginning of the Enz, and it’s an essential appendix to their discography.