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Split Enz - Frenzy CD (album) cover


Split Enz


Crossover Prog

2.79 | 23 ratings

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3 stars Recorded at a time when Split Enz was transitioning from an eccentric, uncommercial, progressive pop-rock outfit to a more mainstream (though still somewhat eccentric) and polished new wave act, Frenzy displays a rawer, more modest side of a band apparently in search of a new cohesive identity. Gone are the more experimental and ambitious arrangements, the vaudevillian theatrics, and (as can be seen by the album's cover) the zany costumes and make-up, to give way to a less innovative, yet more spontaneous and still creative output, which at times borders on brilliancy. (Here, I must clarify that I am referring to the 1981 North American/UK remixed version of Frenzy (or later Australian remix), which I understand is considered better than the original 1979 Australian/New Zealand version, as many of the tracks were substituted by their superior, original recordings from the so-called 'Rootin' Tootin' Luton Tapes', and were complemented by two particularly fine tracks not present on the original album, 'Semi-Detached' and 'Carried Away'). Frenzy offers an eclectic mix of frenetic punkish pop songs and well-crafted pop-rock compositions, sometimes incorporating harder electric guitar riffs than previously and greater use of synthesizers (perhaps due to the elimination of Rob Gillies' brass section), as well as a few rather wacky compositions, and even some slightly experimental material reminiscent of Split Enz's prog-rock past. Most significant within this rather odd assortment is the highly energized 'I See Red', an Australian top 20 hit which foreshadowed Split Enz's new wave pop sound and commercial success (achieved with their next album True Colours), though its quirky edges may have prevented it from becoming an international hit. However, there are other strong tracks. Notably, 'Semi-detached' incorporates prog-rock influences in a powerfully delivered, evocative reflection on modern society's atomization. While most songs are still written and sung by Tim Finn, 'Give it a Whirl' and 'Carried Away' reveal younger brother Neil Finn to be a talented song-writer, singer, as well as a zesty guitar player. 'Hermit McDermitt' and 'Mind over Matter' continue with the quirky punkish pop of 'I See Red', though somewhat less successfully, while at the other extreme, 'Betty' is a pleasant pop-rock ballad and 'Stuff and Nonsense' is a truly, beautiful, piano-based love song. Unfortunately, Frenzy also has its share of weaker tracks, so that the album does seem rather uneven, in addition to lacking a clear musical identity. Nevertheless, in view of the strong material that is there, and the diversity of this material, I still consider Frenzy to be a good album overall, and an important one to appreciate the evolution of one of the most original bands of the era.
filster8 | 3/5 |


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