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


Split Enz


Crossover Prog

3.44 | 9 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

3 stars (3.5 stars) Noting that this album only had four ratings on this site, I felt somewhat compelled to promote its' evidently little known virtues. Unlike some other compilations of early recordings, this one does not simply reflect the raw and tentative beginnings of a band that would evolve into a major act (at least in Australia/New Zealand and Canada), but, as suggested by the previous reviewers, a strong collection of original, heartfelt, musically rich and diverse songs, that are definitely worth listening to in their own right. Not only is this album essential to appreciate a crucial period in Split Enz' career and its evolution, but it holds its weight against much of the band's later output.

Like most of Split Enz's music, the songs on this album are difficult to categorize, and though one can certainly discern the link between these songs and their early albums, the sound is really quite unique. In general terms, it could be described as offbeat progressive folk-rock, with strong vaudevillian or music hall influences. However, while prog-rock tendencies are evident and the compositions are enriched by an impressive ensemble of instruments, including the violin, flute, saxophone, mandolin, keyboard and tambourine, this is still a few steps removed from the more art-rock oriented material of their first albums (Mental Notes, Second Thoughts or even Dyzrhithmia, which would be released a few years later). Despite the presence at times of many instruments, the songs are essentially less complex and more acoustically-based. Of course Split Enz's quirky sense of humour, weirdness and zaniness are as present as ever in the music as well as the lyrics. However, to a greater extent than would be the case later, the songs are rooted in local folklore, tradition and humour (though I have never been to New Zealand, I assume this to be the case and this is confirmed by the previous two kiwi reviewers). This lends these recordings a more earthy and unpretentious quality than is usually present in Split Enz's later material. Indeed, I find the music to be at times touchingly innocent in its earnestness and enthusiasm. This is exemplified by two of the best tracks, '129' and 'Lovey Dovey', which were re-recorded for the album Second Thoughts, an outstanding, more prog-rock oriented album, but which slightly over-does these two tracks, losing the more spontaneous feel of the originals. On Beginning of the Enz, '129' is lighter and moves faster, while "Lovey Duvey' sounds more direct, enabling the listener to better appreciate its catchy chorus. Like several other tracks on this album, these songs have sections with enticing vaudevillian/music hall arrangements, which are comically danceable. My favourite, 'No Bother to Me' alternates between a gloomy piano melody with melancholic vocals and lyrics, and an almost euphoric vaudevillian cabaret atmosphere. Some other tracks, however, in particular the ones from their first single, 'Split Ends' and 'For You', are more folk-based, dominated by acoustic guitar and the flute, though still rather strange and moving. Meanwhile, 'Spellbound' (re-recorded for 'Mental Notes") is a well-constructed piece of progressive folk with a darker atmosphere.

Ultimately, there is certainly something self-contradictory and even slightly schizophrenic in this music: progressive, eclectic, and innovative and slightly progressive on the one hand, while folk-based and traditional on the other. And in fact, this contradictory/schizophrenic character perhaps characterizes Split Enz's entire musical career; their frenetic changes in melodies and rhythms (most evident in their earlier work); their eventual conversion from avant-garde and eccentric forms of pop-rock to catchy new wave pop, not to mention the different musical styles explored along the way. Be that as it may, The Beginning of the Enz is certainly an album to be appreciated by more than just die-hard Split Enz fans in my view.... Of course, this is obviously just the opinion of one of those die-hards.

filster8 | 3/5 |


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