Roland and Nina’s DECADES IN MUSIC: 1975 – SPLIT ENZ – Mental Notes

Review by Roland Bruynesteyn
Album assigned by Nina A

This is the debut album by the band Split Enz (New Zealand spelling of Split Ends, nz, you get it). A quick run through the songs:
Walking Down a Road – Nice opener, quirky singing, nice keyboard runs at the end.
Under the Wheel – Almost a suite of songs, with lots of proggy pretentiousness thrown in. Speeded up gimmicky voices date it somewhat. The symphonic ambition works for me, however.
Amy (Darling) – This song reminds me of Cockney Rebel, fronting the Small faces, playing a 10CC song. It sounds very early 70’s English with some vaudevillian touches, and that’s a compliment. This is some good stuff!
So Long For Now – This sounds a little bit like Sparks meeting up with 10CC. A fun song, no pretence, but well performed. The backing vocals occasionally sound like Supertramp.
Stranger Than Fiction –  A very synthy opening, something that could have appeared on LldoB by Genesis. You expect Peter Gabriel to start singing any time. When the singing starts it remains firmly in Genesis/Supertramp territory (children singing in the background make you think of School off Crime of the century). The singer is no Peter Gabriel however. Distinctive, yes, attractive, less so.
Time For a Change –  The piano ballad. Yup.
Maybe – Quirky, partly because it’s mostly two voices singing at the same time. They should have given this to Elton John. He could have made this into one of his big hits of the mid-seventies, by also streamlining it a little.
Titus – A little banjo-like intro suggests a children’s’ song. When the voice starts he’s working on his Roger Chapman vibrato. The rest of the band or the producer should have told him not to do that. Apart from that, this song feels somehow unfinished or throwaway.
Spellbound – Overproduced intro (backwards cymbal, acoustic guitar, acoustic piano, weird synthesizer noises) and then some solid ‘bass and drums’ (in the traditional sense of the word) enter, to build up the tension. Singers’ style annoys a little here as well, but this song is actually very nice. The instrumental parts sound a little like Dark Side of the Moon sometimes (Breathe/Time), although the urgent, panicky singing ruins the contemplative atmosphere.
Mental Notes –  40 seconds that didn’t fit anywhere else, and they’re hardly needed here.
Verdict: This is a resonating great album! Very eclectic music and very different from the new wavey Talking Heads-light I was expecting. I STRONGLY recommend this album if you love the 70’s.
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Author: tomymostalas

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