The Ron Kane Files

Writing About Music

Monday, December 03, 2007

Split Enz

12-3-07 Split Enz

(re-run from Aug. ’02)

Split Enz were New Zealand’s foremost ambassadors of popular music, nothing less. However, “Time & Tide” is one of the less ‘exciting’ Enz releases. For me. And people used to worry about how their hair looked!

By the time of the original release of “Time & Tide”, Split Enz had been in the status of ongoing concern for nearly a decade, having gone through many line-up changes. They had been relatively successful for about three years at this point, spending a lot of time outside of Australasia promoting themselves. The overall sound is good, but the writing (and production) were a bit stale by this point. They produced an enormous amount of material between ‘79 and ‘82. The end of the Enz was truly in sight (it was 2 years, and 2 albums away).

On top of that, “Time & Tide” was the follow-up to a well-loved release, “Waiata” (aka “Coroboree”). Talk about a “Hard Act To Follow”…

The well-known singles from this album were “Dirty Creature” and “Six Months In A Leaky Boat”, which had the dubious honor of being withdrawn/banned by the BBC at the time of the initial Falkland Islands ‘misunderstandings’. Some of the other material on this album could easily fall into the ‘weak’ category – “Lost For Words”, unusual subject matter – “Hello Sandy Allen” etc. And some may have enjoyed the elder Finn’s introspection, but…there aren’t any “History Never Repeats” or “Shark Attack” type songs on this album.

I found the 2 Split Enz box sets compulsory purchases, mostly for the bonus discs of rare/unusual material. The original CD issue of “Time And Tide” was the world’s first Split Enz CD, initially only released in Japan (on A&M/Pony/Canyon).

All of that being said, Split Enz created one of my all-time favorite records: the original “Mental Notes” (1975 White Cloud NZ; Mushroom AUS) – not be confused with the US/UK Chrysalis LP of the same name (which is known as “Second Thoughts” in Australasia). Largely due to “Mental Notes”, I traveled to New Zealand seven times in the 1980’s. I found “the road hedged with roses”, to paraphrase “Walking Down A Road”. It is my opinion that Phil Judd, one of the original Split Enz singer/songwriters, is one of the most unique (read: best, my favorite) talents on Earth. His songs (and his playing and singing) on “Mental Notes” and “Second Thoughts” make me glad to be an Earthling.

2007 addendum: Phil Judd is still making music (“Mr. Phudd’s Novelty Act”) and Split Enz got the full “re-mastering” treatment, in digipaks, instead of little paper album covers. The re-mastering was done by Mr. Eddie Rayner, who saw fit to mess with several of the albums, though not much on “Time & Tide”. But he turned “Waiata” (aka “Coroboree”) inside out!


Anonymous Jim Donato said...

Re: Enz

Mr. Ware let me hear this Coroboree Rayner hack job. As I hold the original album in the highest regard, specifically Mr. Tickle's original production, I can only wonder why they let him get away with this $#!+ all of the time. It chaps my @$$ to have Rayner remixes become Split Enz canon!

I also share your antipathy towards Time & Tide, an album I was never compelled to own. Like you, I would like to have the 2nd boxed set for the bonus disc. And finally True Colours & Waiata on CD. As fate has it, I have not yet found a copy of it. But that's all right. I consider it more important to have the 1st box with the best goods! Which I was finally shamed into buying after Mr. Ware made his DVDs, I'm chagrined to admit.

But yeah, outside of True Colours and Waiata, the last 5 Enz albums hardly shape up for me as must haves. In fact, the maddening popularity and commercial success of Time & Tide frankly rankles me! Apart from Pioneer/6 Months In A Leaky Boat, most of it passes me by.

Speaking of which, here's a true story. I was in the grocery store last week when on the stores 80s channel, after "Lies " by Thompson Twins our ears were graced by "6 Months In A Leaky Boat." When the song started, I was going down an aisle with a woman and her young [6-ish] daughter coming in the opposite direction. The daughter said to her mother, "ooh, I know this song!"

I wept.

8:12 AM  
Blogger Brian Ware said...

I second Brother Jim's opinion of the "Coroboree" remix. It's "interesting", but certainly should not be the definitive edition of this fine album. Unlike so many who consider "Time and Tide" to be the Enz's best LP, I'd give it a solid C+, which is more than I'd give the next one "Conflicting Emotions". It has a moment or two (mostly Neil's), but it's the runt of the litter for sure.

6:49 PM  
Blogger Ron Kane said...

Yeah, could not believe my ears, re: Coroboree remix. If we ranked the Enz albums Michelin style, "T&T" would be down near the bottom (which I consider "Conflicting Emotion" to be the real bottom of the barrell).

7:21 PM  
Blogger chas_m said...

I think TNT (not the cable channel!) to be Enz's most uneven album (saying a lot there!), but there are several cuts I do like.

"Six Months" does seem to somehow have achieved consciousness even in people who weren't that familiar with the Enz -- Heather, who's favourite SE track is "I See Red" had heard SMiaLB before I played it for her. What th--??

Anyway, because I too have met Sandy Allen, I am particularly fond of "Sandy Allen." It's a bouncy upbeat number with weird/silly lyrics, what's not to like?

Obviously Six Months is the highlight of the album, but "Haul Away" isn't at all a bad sea shanty in the Australian/NZ tradition.

2:49 AM  
Anonymous Jim Donato said...

Re: Screwing With Canon... and how to do it

Simple Minds took an interesting side trip into re-imagining an iconic album. Their DVD-Audio disc of New Gold Dream features not only a 5.1 surround mix but [except for 2 cuts where they couldn't find the multi track masters] many revisions to the 2.0 mix as well. Alternate takes, extended edits of the real takes. Since it is a DVD-A it hardly is meant to replace the in print CD, merely complement it, which I think it does. I mean, I don't have a surround sound system to listen to it on, so I can only judge it on how it presents an alternate vision of NGD. Since it is an album that has grown in stature to me over the years - I listen to it more now than ever - I welcomed the option of hearing it in a different way.

Woe betide the punters who want to hear the version of Coroboree they grew up with! Fanx Eddie! A pox on 'ye!!

5:20 AM  
Blogger Ron Kane said...

To the topic of "Screwing with the Canon" - the single worst offender is my favorite artist: Frank Zappa. When CD first walked down th epike, we remixed 3 of his best albums - all LP's on the Verve label - and then forever (at that time) deleted the correct versions, I refer notably to "We're Only In It For The Money" (my #1 album) and "Cruisin' With Ruben & The Jets". By the time of the "FZ Approved" re-masters, "Only Money" had been restored, but - poor "Ruben & The Jets" - to this very day, the only version you can now buy is a horrible mis-guided remix.

7:09 AM  

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