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Split Enz - The Beginnings of the Enz CD (album) cover

THE BEGINNINGS OF THE ENZ

Split Enz

 

Crossover Prog

3.43 | 8 ratings

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sl75
3 stars A collection of early singles, mostly predating the recording of Mental Notes, I bought this expecting an insight into their early development as a band that was initially considered progressive. Given that it consists entirely of singles, it is somewhat limited and not really representative of their most progressive side, since the single format demands shorter songs designed to catch the ears of radio programmers. It would be somewhat unfair to judge their progressive credentials based on this - after all, how many of the great prog titans would come out looking great if all we ever heard were their singles? eg Yes, ELP, Floyd etc

To start with, Split Enz favoured acoustic instruments, including flute and violin, and made music with a distinct folk edge. At it's best (such as on their first single and my personal favourite track, "For You"), it resembles prog folk groups such as Comus (without the bloodshed), Spirogyra, or the acoustic side of Jethro Tull. However, there was also a side to their early writing that leaned toward jug-band ragtime, as though they were attempting to be New Zealand's answer to the Captain Matchbox Whoopee Band; and although the two sides coexist in the best tracks, the raggy side seems to dominate here. That songwriting approach continues into the later recordings, even as the sound of the band changes, becoming more electric and keyboard-led - in that timbral context, the songs take on the character of zany, arty pop. Which is exactly the direction Split Enz ulimately followed (though with gradually decreasing levels of zaniness and artiness). Aside from "For You", the proggiest track here is the re-recorded version of "Spellbound", with it's more symphonic keyboard textures - nevertheless, it's a much more smoothed out and radio-friendly version of that song, compared to the much more edgy version on Mental Notes.

sl75 | 3/5 |

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