Neo-Classi-Cosmoidal-Cosmetic, in a Nutshell

I’ve been on a Split Enz kick lately, which prompted my first post to the front page of Metafilter in seven years. The link at the heart of it is so great that I’m cross-posting it here to further spread the word.

Split Enz were to New Zealand what the Beatles were to the UK, and like the fabs their legacy is impressive: an endlessly entertaining back-catalogue and some inspiring solo and band offshoots. One of these, Crowded House, captured more of the world’s attention, but few in New Zealand would question the priority of the Enz. Which must be why Radio New Zealand made an eight-hour documentary series split over ten podcasts about their fascinating journey from art-folk-classical-prog to New Wave pop mastery: Enzology is essential listening for any Split Enz fan, featuring “excerpts from all the hits and numerous album tracks, plus previously unreleased demos, live recordings and studio out-takes gathered from the band members’ personal archives and elsewhere”.

Bonus Enz history: Mike Chunn’s band biography Stranger Than Fiction, online in its entirety with the author’s blessing (via the fount of all Enzdom,

The post title, by the way, is from the beginning of episode 3 of the podcast. A radio interviewer in 1975-76 asks Tim Finn “how would you describe your music?” and he replies...

(Split Enz are just one of the bands I’ve been rediscovering in recent weeks after shaking up my music-listening habits; after living in a top-floor flat with its own attic for three years, I finally took the plunge and moved all my vinyl and CDs into it, to join the cassettes mouldering away there. Buying one of these and hooking it up to one of these swept away any lingering fondness for staring at shelves full of CDs more or less overnight; fortunately, I did all the necessary ripping a few years ago, although the vinyl still awaits. A pack or two of these made storing all the CDs as neat as it could be. Essentially, we regained a whole wall of our living room for a few hundred quid. The boxes of plastic are still there for whenever I want to commune with the objects rather than the music they contained.... my nostalgic side wants to think this will be a regular urge, but my realistic side knows it won’t be.)

30 April 2011 · Music

For some reason Movable Type won’t let me attach title tags to those YouTube links. In case the links die, they are:

Split Enz - Spellbound (1975)
Split Enz - Things (1979)
Split Enz - Dirty Creature (1982)
Split Enz - Strait Old Line (1983)
Split Enz - I Walk Away (1984)
Tim Finn - Out Of This World (2008)
Neil Finn - Don’t Dream It’s Over (Sydney Opera House 2009)
Finn Brothers - Suffer Never (1995)
The Swingers - Counting the Beat (1981)
Schnell Fenster - Whisper (1988)
Crowded House - Distant Sun (1993)

Added by Rory on 30 April 2011.

As part of the Split Enz kick that inspired this post, I checked out a couple of the remastered versions of their albums that Eddie Rayner did in 2006, after reading that Corroboree/Waiata and Frenzy were substantially different from the originals. The Corroboree one is good, although I always liked the original and can take or leave some of the changes. Frenzy, meanwhile, was always an album that I thought had great songs but terrible production: notoriously, the band ended up with a “big name” overseas producer forced on them by their Australian label who turned out to be a no-name who blagged his way onto the job. The original production sounds like the whole thing was recorded through a thick woollen sock.

Well, the remaster is a revelation. Rayner has remixed the whole album from top to bottom, changing most of the songs substantially, and it now sounds fantastic. The band were on very top form, which makes the sabotage the original production did to their music even more of a crime. It makes you wonder how many other disappointing albums by other artists could be rescued by sympathetic remastering and remixing; the difference really is that great.

Even better is the one-disk version of The Rootin Tootin Luton Tapes released around the time of the remasters. These legendary 1978 demos were packed full of great songs that were never released, and the one-disk version collects the best of them, effectively making it an entire lost Split Enz album from 1978. (There’s a fan-club-only version with a second disk full of the songs that ended up on Frenzy, but if you have the remasters of that it isn’t as essential.)

Together, these two make the perfect bridge between early and later Split Enz, which previously had felt worlds apart to me. If you’ve enjoyed the Enzology podcast I suggest heading straight for these next.

Added by Rory on 10 May 2011.