The Ron Kane Files

Writing About Music

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Phil Judd

"Mr. Phudd & His Novelty Act" by Phil Judd

2006 was a big year for my somewhat unlikely 'favorite artists' - who would ever have thought that there would be a new Scritti Politti album in '06?

Took me until recently to come across a copy of the '06 Phil Judd CD. To the uninitiated, Mr. Judd was one of the co-founders of the original Split Enz, the leader of both The Swingers and Schnell Fenster. My thanks to Gary in New Zealand for remembering my interest in the works of Mr. Judd.

This is only Judd's 6th "initial work" in his stated career: Split Enz "Mental Notes", The Swingers "Practical Jokers", solo album "Private Lives", Schnell Fenster "The Sound of Trees", Schnell Fenster "OK Alright Uh Huh Oh Yeah" and now solo album "Mr. Phudd & His Novelty Act". Yes, there is more than this, but for practical purposes - these are the six titles that are relatively easy to obtain. I recommend them all.

I first became aware of Mr. Judd upon seeing Split Enz live at the Golden Bear in Huntington Beach, CA - at the time of the Chrysalis release of "Mental Notes" (the album known as "Second Thoughts" in Australasia). In 1979, while in Helsinki, I met someone from New Zealand sheerly by accident...who sent me the "AK 79" LP eventually (early 1980?) - making me aware of The Swingers. I visited NZ several times in the 80's, I met Peter Green from the Frenz of the Enz. I met Mike Chunn, the former bassist of the original Split Enz etc.

I like Judd's voice. Mike Chunn was who first pointed out to me that he was a fantastic lyricist. He's also a talented painter, having designed the cover of the original "Mental Notes" and numerous other kiwi album covers. After the two Schnell Fenster albums, there was quite a wait for the new album - over a decade.

"Mr. Phudd & His Novelty Act" is as out of place in the new century as Scritti Politti's "White Bread Black Beer" - it's wonderful stuff, but...I can't imagine anyone who doesn't already know who Judd is listening to this disc. The subject matter, in a "dirty old man" persona, even makes the disc unsuitable for airplay, due to language.

He is in good voice here - and I recognize the sound of some of his obviously favorite instruments - the mandolin, a specific guitar sound, even his own double-tracked vocal harmonies. He knows what sounds he likes, and what he does well. How to encourage a man of this caliber? He has his own website,, and I read that he even has a 'myspace' page. So, he's a fifty-something, on-line, in Melbourne - who made the neatest record I've heard in a long time. I am, of course, this album's intended audience.

I also read that he was not invited to join a re-formed Split Enz recently. That figures, the Finn brothers were always a little short-sighted, when it comes to anyone other than themselves.

Thanks for the great record, Phil. Really pleased to hear it. I'd love to hear more.


Anonymous Jim Donato said...

I still need full "Private Lives" and the 2nd Schnell fenster album... now this! Tim Finn can't be trusted! Did they shut Phil out but let in Enlyn Crowther - THAT'S what I want to know! Nooooo! It was probably the "True Colours" lineup - wasn't it? Feh!

9:10 AM  
Blogger Brian Ware said...

I'm a big Phil-fan as well, but I have to admit I've had a hard time warming up to his latest. The uninitiated would not want to start out with "Mr. Phudd". But clearly he has nothing left to prove, and I'm quite certain this is exactly the LP he wanted to make. I wish him the best.
Schnell Fenster was by far the greatest Enz spin-off act ever. They ended waaaaay too soon.

7:56 PM  
Blogger Ron Kane said...

Schnell Fenster was, indeed, massive. And few outside of Australia ever got to see them.

It would be great if Phil cranked out another solo album within a year - if nothing else - to have something that one could validly compare "Mr. Phudd" to! I agree - it is not a 'starting place' for anybody - and it doesn't sound like one, either.

The jokes all sound like "in" jokes to me; like he knows who will be listening. And - on his website - the "Commissions" section is, er, a tad creepy.

We all wish him the very best.

9:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funny, this weekend I was playing the Swingers “Practical Jokers.” Great record. Being a fan of Judd, did you by chance pick up the Suburban Reptiles single from a couple of years ago? Ron, any time you want to sell your copy of the Saturday Night Stay At Home 45 or the 12 inch on Vertigo NZ . . .


3:45 PM  
Blogger Ron Kane said...

I have both Suburban Reptiles records - no, not for sale. They sound better (the original vinyl) than any CD appearance of "Saturday Night Stay At Home". I have been a big Phil Judd fan for 30 years now. I went to New Zealand 7 or 8 times - I think I have a complete Phil Judd collection.

6:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a fantastic entry. Unfortunately, I can't get my hands on Private Lives or OK Alright A Huh Oh Yeah! I of course want to obtain them legally, but have yet to find a site selling the CDs. Boo.

Mr. Phudd is a great album though, love it!

10:59 PM  

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