Looking back at my teenage years in the 80s and early 90s, bands and music in general were very different to today’s artists. The evolution of recording techniques saw bands using cutting edge technology to produce the sound tracks of our generation.
Music fans were also a different breed. Without internet streaming services, we had record stores and TV shows such as Countdown, Sounds Unlimited, and MTV. Most importantly, when we bought a recording, we listened to it front to back, and got to know both the lyrics and the band.
Split Enz was one of those bands. They had a distinctive sound, spawned a unique look, and gave us memorable, iconic music. This July marked the 40th Anniversary of their fifth album True Colours, which was originally released in January, 1980.
Hailing from New Zealand, Split Enz was fronted by brothers Tim and Neil Finn (vocals, guitars), Noel Crombie (percussion, vocals) Malcolm Green (drums), Nigel Griggs (bass) and Eddie Rayner. (keyboards).
Over the years, Eddie Rayner has remastered and released the album, but this 40 year milestone has served as a distinct place in time to present it to fans, both old and new, with a fresh perspective; an assortment of coloured vinyls to choose from with the added bonus of seven live tracks recorded during various Australian tours.
In a recent statement, Rayner said that the “original masters are mixed, but unmastered, and the Spotify versions have been brutally, and probably repeatedly remastered… by whom, when, where and why, nobody will ever know. So for me, remixing to both restore and improve the currently-available mix & the overall sound, for this 40th anniversary release, was a good idea”.
I sat down and listened to the album in its entirety several times, and couldn’t help but float over to my drum kit that resides in the same room, to play along with some of the tunes. How could I resist? The songs are simply timeless and the infamous instrumentals were cool to jam along to.
Track 1, Shark Attack blasts out of the canon at full speed, with a punk feel and distinctive Electro Mellotron keyboard parts and alarm bells that were clearly not samples. Finn’s vocals slice through the music with an urgency that sets you up for the next unexpected track, written by Neil Finn, I Got You. I’ve heard this track so many times over the years yet it never feels dated. The ghoul keyboard effects match the Addams Family inspired film clip and the harmonies are so distinct that even if you do not know who Split Enz are, you know this song.
Moving through the tracks, which were mostly written by Tim Finn, I could clearly hear the mastering of this 40th Year Anniversary version and it was perfect!
Double Happy – an instrumental piece written by Rayner, highlights the impressive collective musicianship of Split Enz.
In an era when song writers like Neil Finn were coming of age and composing innovative songs that had a story to tell, ballads like I Hope I Never were one of those songs that captured an orchestral arrangement that is lead by Rayner’s piano quickly became timeless classics.
The seven bonus live tracks are from performances between 1981 to 1984 in New Zealand and Australia. None of these tracks are from the original True Colours recording but cuts from future singles. I found this refreshing as it provides Split Enz fans with a new piece of music history and who knows – if you listen hard enough, you might hear yourself in the crowd during Ninnee Neez Up at the Festival Hall in Melbourne (11th May 1984).
Ending the live set is Wail, which was recorded live at The Regent Theatre, Sydney (29th March 1981). This instrumental, with an occasional Finn vocal garnish, completes this musician’s jam.
1980 was a turning point for Split Enz. True Colours was a number one hit in Australia & New Zealand and was a key that unlocked international acclaim. After listening to it again, it is clear that the record and band have cemented a musical legacy that will undoubtedly live on for generations to come.
Album Review By Peter Pap