My Record Collection 182

Split Enz – Now, this is more like it.  A New Zealand band who emerged in the early 70’s and were almost forerunners of the punk movement; only difference was they wrote great songs and were phenomenal musicians.  Led by Tim Finn and joined later by younger brother Neil the band were at first a bit of a cult band – but following big hit ‘I Got You’ they gained fame and fans.   I first saw them in 77 at the Roundhouse and was truly amazed by them.  Such a breath of fresh air in what was becoming a slightly predictable rock scene.  They were brightly dressed in almost clowns’ outfits with spiky coloured hair, and they tended to run around the stage while singing and playing.  Anyway, I worked back to their earlier albums.  First of which was Mental Notes (1975).  The band were then a seven piece, and most of the songs were written by Phil Judd and only 2 in collaboration with Tim. A bit of a mixed bag really, a couple of very good songs and a few less brilliant.  Still, ‘Walking Down A Road’, ‘Titus’ and ‘Time For A Change’ showed the spark of originality that was soon to flower.  Their second followed a year later Second Thoughts; and despite quite a few the of songs re-recorded from the first album it is pretty damn good.   Apparently, Tim was intent on re-recording songs which he thought were poor on the first album.   I bought this at the time on vinyl  – but haven’t got it on CD (all their original albums are very expensive now on CD).  But an early favourite was 1977’s Dizrythmia.  Phil Judd and a couple of others had left the band, replaced by Tim’s younger brother Neil and Nigel Griggs and Malcolm Green, who became long-standing members of the band.  Well, this album was a revelation….much better songs and a smoother, more rounded sound; more poppy I suppose.  Best songs are ‘Crosswords’, ‘My Mistake’ and the superb ballad ‘Charlie’.  The band was really now Tim’s band – although brother Neil started writing and taking lead vocals on the next couple of albums.  The first of which was 1979’s Frenzy. Another excellent album; mostly good melodic and clever songs.   It does seem a touch dated now though…but still pretty good.  Best songs are the almost manic ‘I See Red’, the hillbilly sounding ‘Hermit McDermitt’ and the beautiful ballad ‘Stuff and Nonsense’.  Then in 1980 came the masterpiece of the band’s career.  The album True Colours (as well as being available in various coloured covers) was one of those absolute rarities – a perfect album.  There are very few records where every song feels just right, and you simply sing along to each track, then press replay again and again.  The album opens with the frantic and lyrically amusing ‘Shark Attack’ (I was swimming in the water when I bought a shark attack). Followed by the big worldwide hit single ‘I Got You’ (a Neil Finn, sung and written, infectiously poppy tune) from there it just zings along – ballads like ‘I Hope I Never’ and ‘Poor Boy’, the superb and best song about personal failure ever written ‘Nobody takes Me Seriously’, as well as more upbeat numbers like ‘I Wouldn’t Dream Of It’ and ‘What’s the Matter With You’ – and a personal favourite – ‘Missing Person’.  By this time about half the songs were being written and/or sung by Neil.  The album topped the charts in Oz and NZ but only hit 38 in the UK. All I know is it ranks in my top 100 albums and maybe even my top 50 (but actually how can you compare – I often say to people when they ask what is my favourite album “The one I am listening to now”)  Waiata followed in 1981 (the title being a Maori word for song or singing). Another very good album, not quite as impressive as True Colours, but pretty good….best songs; ‘One Step Ahead’, ‘History Never Repeats’, Walking Through The Ruins’ and ‘Ghost Girl’.  The band were really flying with Neil and Tim swapping song-writing and singing.  They were writing and making albums pretty quickly too – Time and Tide followed in ’82.  Another excellent album….best songs were ‘Never Ceases To Amaze me’ – and the remarkable and long-time fan favourite ‘Six Months In A Leaky Boat’, followed by ‘Haul Away’ and ‘Log Cabin Fever’.  Conflicting Emotions came out the following year – and in my mind they were beginning to slide too much to the ordinary, where ‘Split Enz’ were always such a distinctive sound.  However, on re-listening I find, as so often, that the record is still pretty damn good.  Best songs  – Strait Old Line’. ‘Message To My Girl’ and ‘Bon Voyage’.  Their final album was 1985s See Ya Around (the title may have been their own goodbye to themselves).  I don’t have this poor seller on CD as it is now priced at around £120…a real rarity.  Tim had already left for a solo career (see F) and Tim only had 5 songs ready, 3 of which would be later re-worked for Crowded House.  The album is pretty poor and Neil left after recording; the remaining three members called it a day too.  Best song by far is ‘I Walk Away’ – even if Crowded House (see C) made a much better version.

But, as so often, that was not quite the end of the story.  Many bands have an afterlife, often years after they have stopped.  Split Enz still have a remarkable following (see Eddie Rayner’s classical take on Enzso -E) and there are about 5 live albums available.  I have one ‘Live In America’ and very good it is too, the band were possibly even better live than on record.  This is a 1980 recording, when True Colours was a big hit, and features practically every song from that brilliant album – the band were really flying at this point and ‘exuberance’ oozes out of every track. Even the beginning of maybe a new song ‘Take a Horse To Water’ and a ragged ‘Twist and Shout’.  Then there was in 1993, a 20year anniversary tour and the following album Anniversary.  Again, an exemplary live record – so glad I saw them live, if only the once.  I also have quite a handful of compilation albums – Beginning of The Enz – basically first 3 albums.   Best of Split Enz , History never Repeats and Enz of an Era – all excellent if slightly different and really a bit pointless – but I am a completist and make no apologies.  Also, I just got Spellbound – another double compilation – so there.  I could listen to them all day; they are the perfect antidote to all the serious news I read; perfect little pop songs, mostly absurd and very catchy.  Of course, Neil, and occasionally Tim went on to solo careers (see F) and sometimes collaborations as in Crowded House (see C) and Eddie Rayner recently re-recorded several Split Enz songs with a classical orchestra under the name ENZSO (see E).  And I always sing along to every Split Enz song; they are so infectious. 

Split Enz - Split Enz 1980-1984 (1992) 6 CD Box Set [Re-Up] / AvaxHome