Time and Tide
True Colours and Waiata were strong pop albums, but they felt somewhat facile and unsatisfying. With the help of producer Hugh Padgham, Split Enz explored more interesting sonic territory on Time and Tide, without sacrificing the pop hooks, resulting in the most satisfying album of their pop era. The album was informed by difficulties in Tim Finn’s life; he’d gone through a marriage breakup and a nervous breakdown, and these travails are reflected in songs like ‘Haul Away’. Malcolm Green left after Waiata, and Noel Crombie took over as the drummer, while bass player Nigel Griggs is unusually prominent, contributing to four of the album’s songs.
Tim Finn’s songs are more personal than ever before, particularly the jaunty sea-shanty autobiography ‘Haul Away’. Tim’s major contribution is the epic ‘Six Months in a Leaky Boat’, which goes a long way towards explaining New Zealand’s national insecurity (“the tyranny of distance”); the song was banned by the BBC, as it was released uncomfortably hard on the heels of the Falklands War. ‘Dirty Creature’ is a tale of Tim’s anxieties represented as a nasty beast, with the group laying down a convincingly funky groove and Tim using his gorgeous high range in the chorus.
Neil Finn’s songwriting veers suddenly into the realm of fantasy, with efforts like ‘Log Cabin Fever’ and ‘Giant Heartbeat’. Coupled with Finn’s guitar heroics, lyrics “like a zephyr harmonising with a flute”, and Rayner’s ominous synthesisers, the latter in particular feels inspired by progressive rock. Neil’s highlight is the jaunty ‘Take A Walk’, with some lovely piano. Rayner contributes ‘Pioneer’, which serves as a prelude to ‘Six Months in A Leaky Boat’.
Time and Tide is the high water point of Split Enz’s pop-era albums, and one of the strongest albums that the Finn brothers have created.