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Split Enz

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Split Enz Mental Notes album cover
4.18 | 68 ratings | 17 reviews | 26% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1975

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Walking Down a Road (5:22)
2. Under the Wheel (7:48)
3. Amy Darling (5:15)
4. So Long for Now (3:18)
5. Stranger Than Fiction (6:57)
6. Time for a Change (3:46)
7. Maybe (2:57)
8. Titus (3:02)
9. Spellbound (4:59)
10. Mental Notes (0:33)

Total Time 43:57

Bonus tracks on 2006 remaster:
11. 129 (live) (3:02)
12. Lovey Dovey (live) (3:22)

Line-up / Musicians

- Timothy Finn / vocals, piano
- Philip Judd / vocals, acoustic & electric guitars, mandolin
- Eddie Rayner / piano, Mellotron, synthesizers, organs, clavinet, electric piano
- Wally Wilkinson / lead guitar
- Jonathan Michael Chunn / bass, piano (8)
- Emlyn Crowther / drums
- Noel Crombie / percussion

Releases information

Produced by David Russell and Split Enz
Recorded at Festival Records
Remastered by Eddie Raynor

Thanks to cheesecakemouse for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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Buy SPLIT ENZ Mental Notes Music

SPLIT ENZ Mental Notes ratings distribution

(68 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(26%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(53%)
Good, but non-essential (18%)
Collectors/fans only (3%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

SPLIT ENZ Mental Notes reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
4 stars I was always a bit confused whether this was the first album or would it be the infamous The Beginning Of The Enz would hold that honour. In either case, this is among the first few records that are likely to interest the progheads, as opposed to their mid-period early 80's, when the had regressed and became a new wave electro- pop group. This group is mainly the works of a duo Tim Finn (vocals and piano) and Phil Judd (vocals and guitars) which shared most (if not all the songwriting credits), but interestingly enough neither were lead instrumentalists since Wilkinson and Rayner held top solo slots on guitars and keyboards respectively. SE is a septet, but outside a percussionist, there are no wind instruments to spice things up, but their style is sufficiently eclectic, that there is no real need for it.

The music is a relatively good, inventive art rock with a fairly noticeable pop inspiration. Somewhere stuck between Rundgren's Utopia and the Queen, 10 CC, sharing a bit the frenzy, spastic and silly world of those. But if the music has a solid pop vein and none of the group members seem to be ultra virtuoso at their respective instruments, there is plenty of place for musical interplay and the frequent use of a mellotron often gives a cool symphonic edge to their music. In this regard, the almost 8-min Under The Wheel is probably one of the highlights, especially if you enjoy weird screechy crazy vocals (ala Family's Roger Chapman). This track could've almost been written and played by Gabriel-era Genesis, because the guitar does resemble a certain Steve at times. Another very interesting tune for progheads is the almost 7-min Stranger Than Fiction with the strange and spooky birdsong ambiances, and bridging directly to the next poppier Time For A Change.

Other (shorter) tracks like Amy or So Long For Now are poppier even if there interesting twists and the Maybe and short Titus tracks all present plenty of proggy moments to satisfy most of us. Spellbound is another crazy beauty even if by the end of the album, the Chapman-vocals are getting a tad tiresome.

Clearly, Spilt Enz was on a roll as they would be until the end of the decade, pumping a bunch of good popish Art Rock, but sadly their regression into the next decade is one all progheads are aware of since it happened to some of the legends of the prog movement. But in the meantime, we are left with a string of albums that are, if not essential, very worthy of the proghead's attentions. And among this string of albums, this one is maybe the most interesting one (but not the only one) and it could fit as perfect intro.

Review by Heptade
5 stars Mental Notes is unlike anything else in the Split Enz catalogue, and frankly unlike anything else ever made. It's astonishing to think that this was their first album and their sound was so complete and assured out of the gate.

These crazy young kiwis produced a bizarre stew of early seventies sounds, without leaning too heavily on any one in particular. You can hear lots of weirdo symphonic a la Genesis, the visceral energy of Vdgg, and the unhinged art rock of 10cc and Roxy Music, with folk and music hall tossed into the mix. The album draws you into a weird surreal universe of its own, aided by eerie, echoey production and lots of spooky mellotron. That's right proggers, there's tons of 'tron on this album.

The musicianship is unexpectedly high throughout, particularly from keyboard whiz Eddie Rayner and virtuosic drummer Emlyn Crowther, who wasn't with the band for long, more's the pity. The drum production is excellent, good and thumpy. Guitarist Wally Wilkison also acquits himself well with some great electric playing. But the band's two stars were vocalists Tim Finn and Phil Judd. Finn's style resembles some kind of manic music hall singer, while Judd employs a mega-vibrato bray that is somehow incredibly creepy and matches the weirdness of his lyrics.

The album starts off with an art rock epic with lots of different memorable parts and melodies before delving into Judd's scary death ballad Under the Wheels. That's when you know this is going to be one weird trip. Before you're through, you've been treated to full blown symphonic (Stranger Than Fiction), a beautiful piano and mellotron-led ballad (Time for a Change), a thumpy rocker (Maybe) and a very strange mandolin- based song (Titus), before ending with Judd's maniacal, riffy Spellbound. You can imagine the band rehearsing in a small shack in at the very bottom of the south island of NZ, with a storm crashing overhead, conjuring up the weirdest sounds and vibes imaginable.

Believe me, proggers, no matter what you think of the later edition of the band in its Neil Finn days, this is an absolutely essential art rock album, so just get your hands on a copy!

Review by Atavachron
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars A gentle mellotron wash introduces us to this band's debut and a most catchy guitar riff for 'Walking Down a Road', a rich and diverse example of the Split Enz brand of Art Rock... and make no mistake, that's exactly what it is in all its splendor on this charming record. And though perhaps not as sophisticated as the courtly fare of Genesis, this session, both ambitious and quite grounded, is simply one of the best rock albums of 1975.

Utilizing the liberties taken by artists such as Bowie, Rundgren and Hammill but with a firmer symphonic ethic and prog sensibility, 'Mental Notes' plays like rock theater; grand, musical and playful with a perfect balance of structure and texture. This is heard on 'Under the Wheel', which transforms into the pseudo-country romp 'Amy (Darling)'. And yet even in all the fun, this group never puts aside its art priorities for the sake of humor the way ELP might. Twee at times but a great extension of 'Amy' is 'So Long For Now', and the theme of this session really begins to gel. Big orchestral booms and Floydian strangeness warms the tone in 'Stranger Than Fiction', and Phil Judd's sadly sweet reflection on life 'Time For a Change' is fortified by Eddie Rayner's lush 'tron. 'Maybe' bounces along in a classic 70s way with hip irony and Beatles swing, Judd's mandolin carries 'Titus', with 'Spellbound' and the silly title wrapping things up. Absolutely pleasing, unpretentious yet complex, it's a shame the Enz took an increasingly commercial direction though you'd never know it from this album. Not grimly sober like the 'real' prog acts but too serious for a party band, this septet deserves a solid spot in the annals of Progressive Rock, especially for this black pearl. The Warner remaster has two live tracks from 1975 in Melbourne, '129' and 'Lovey Dovey'.

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars "Mental Notes" is the debut full-length studio album by New Zealand rock act Split Enz. The album was released White Cloud in July 1975. Split Enz formed in 1972 under the Split Ends monicker but changed their name to the current one in 1974. While they started out playing a progressive/art rock musical style, they are more known for their later new wave oriented releases.

On "Mental Notes" Split Enz play a progressive rock/art rock hybrid style, which owes as much to the likes of Genesis and Camel as it does to Roxy Music and Queen. So this is certainly eclectic styled music and itīs pretty hard to put into any particular musical box. What can be said about Split Enz is that they are skilled musicians who perform their music with both passion and conviction. The lead vocals are somewhere in the area between Peter Gabriel and Brian Ferry. Although the music often features a humurous element and is predominantly uplifting and upbeat, the songs also often features beautiful pastoral sections, which provide the music with another dimension. Add to that the more rare technical moments where the band toy with time signatures and various stylistic elements like folk and jazz, and again they just come off incredibly adventurous.

"Mental Notes" is a well produced release, featuring a warm, organic, and detailed sound production, which suits the material perfectly. Upon conclusion itīs a good quality debut album from Split Enz, and while the eclectic nature of the sound may scare off some listeners, the more adventure seeking progressive rock/art rock listener should find lots to appreciate here. A 3 - 3.5 star (65%) rating is warranted.

Review by Gooner
5 stars Mental Notes is such a great prog. album that I named my prog.rock radio programme in honour of it which aired in Windsor, Ontario, Canada from 1999-2005. Split Enz recorded one album like this, never to record another like it...although there were some hints retrospectively on 1982's Time And Tide. This album has aged quite well, actually - to the point where it's a bridge between Roxy Music and Marillion (lyrically). This pupp was born in 1975, however...way before Marillion. As mentioned, there's a hint of early Van Der Graaf Generator and the Genesis Foxtrot-era. Lyrics are generally dark in nature (Death...Glorious Death)...and the delivery is at times similar to Christian Descamps of ANGE(except in English). It pains me to put a finger on this one as far as influences go(I can only compare it to other bands...and not other Split Enz LPs), but this is pretty original in scope. Mellotron fans should expect a nice ride. This is a symphonic prog.rock masterpiece on par with Yes-Close To The Edge and Genesis- Selling England By The Pound. Highly recommended.
Review by apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars SPLIT ENZ were the result of Phil Judd and Tim Finn's close friendship during the time of their studies at the Auckland University.After releasing a couple of succesful singles,changing their name from the initial ''Split Ends'' to SPLIT ENZ and adapting a theatrical style at their lives using costumes and make-up,they finally released their debut ''Mental notes'' in 1975.Comparisons with GENESIS are undenieable:Elaborate compositions,symphonic orchestrations,STEVE HACKETT-like electric guitars,nice use of mellotron and superb dramatic and theatrical vocals compose an album full of beautiful sounds and excellent diverse musicianship.Some light musical passages,poppish catchy moments and a few synthesizer flights might bring also YES or even better PAVLOV'S DOG,THE BEATLES and KAYAK to mind.Later the band would follow a more accesible style,but they left prog fans a gem to remember.An absolutely essential album!
Review by tszirmay
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars If there ever was a really, really strange album out there that defied categorization, stretching beyond the norm of conventional rock music, with arguably the weirdest looking dudes since the NY Dolls, Kiss or the Mothers of Invention , then you have never heard of Split Enz from lushly exotic New Zealand! Obviously, offshoot Crowded House (as well as the Potter films) has helped the land of the Maori Kiwis reach the world's artistic mainstream but back in the mid 70s , this bizarroid troupe of characters certainly made their release "Mental Notes" a prime candidate for rock posterity. There are few albums as difficult to describe as this one, so I will give it my absolute best effort but you need to take the plunge yourself. "Walking down the Road" is a rollicking musical adventure full of whimsical passages, odd turns and weird churns, with singer Tim Finn's distinctive voice leading the way. The nearly 8 minute "Under the Wheel" suggests almost symphonic trappings (Mellotron, synths and organs) that simply elevate the affected, trembling and theatrical vocals (Phil Judd) to "scratch your head" levels, absolutely progressive in more ways than meets the ear, jumbling guitars, synths and piano all conspiring to confuse and delight while the bass and drums flutter along , inspired. "Amy Darling" veers into an almost barroom ditty, raise your glasses mates! Funky piano, sudden time changes and instrumental audacity keep the ears focused and the mind puzzled. Finn's vocals amuse, cajole, crackle and shine, with slight hints of Mercury, Chapman, McCartney, Cousins, Bowie, Ferry and some of the wilder New Wave acts, best exemplified by "So Long For Now", a roller coaster ride that consistently keeps one off guard. Bopping bass and tortuous lead guitar propels this short sucker with sheer aplomb. "Stranger than Fiction" is the masterpiece track here, a near 7 minute concoction loaded with symphonic structure as synths and piano set the tone, the guitar drawing the main melody replete with bluesy reverence and all, suddenly spilling into dissonance, drunken vocals, special effects and a return to the main theme. Truly splendid stuff that is totally ORIGINALthat exudes a certain charm that cannot be described, Tim Finn acting as if on a drama stage, capable of massive emotions (with that instantly recognizable 'down under" twinge). Applause, please because it continues with another jewel. "Time for a Change" initiates like a Wakeman etude, courtesy of Eddie Rayner (probably the main reason for Split Enz' presence in PA), a Gershwinesque vocal that is simply awesome (the man can sing), the mellotron set the lead guitar's table while the drums kick in perfectly, succulent stuff. "Maybe" sounds nearly like a Ringo Starr tune, "boom boom tchak" nicely with funny vocals, a wonderful delivery that predates the Crowded House style but in a wilder manner. "Titus" is another short oddity, mandolin leading the way, piano, more trembling vocals (Judd) dueling with Finn's more fluid delivery with a windswept synth solo doing the trick here. "Spellbound" weaves an initial web of intrigue, an indistinct collage of sounds , until the inexorable bass shores up the deal with languid teasing, exploding into a mid-tempo melody , drenched in overwrought theatricality, Wally Wilkinson unleashing a chirping lead guitar solo that only heightens the pace and the mood. Bizarre, I tell you, bizarre. This unique album ends with the 0.33 second sonic pastiche "Mental Notes" that only hint at their rather frenzied sense of musical sanity. A masterful career would emanate from this first blood. 4 all black rugby balls.
Review by ZowieZiggy
4 stars This band was a great surprise coming from New-Zealand. At that time, extremely few bands from this remote country (for a European, but not only) did ever reached world recognition (and it is still the case).

But, these guys were extremely original. You could notice already in the cover of their debut album. A certain flair of craziness, bizarre atmosphere is to be noticed.

Their music is very special as well. Very much."Split Enz". Even if the early "Roxy" could be named as an influence. The weirdness starts with the very first notes of the opening number. It ends with the last ones of the short (just over thirty seconds) closing track.

Keyboards have a major influence ("Under The Wheel", "Stranger Than Fiction") and the vocal parts are rather disjointed ("So Long For Now").

Arrangements are quite sophisticated and themes are frequently changing throughout a same song (somewhat in the vein of "10CC" to which the band could also be related to IMO).

Decadent and upsetting can also describe this work (like the good but confidential UK band "Seventh Wave"). "Stranger Than Fiction" is probably the number which best highlights this characteristic. Some sort of mini-opera. An excellent song. Complex, unexpected, but brilliant. The most intricate piece of music and one of the best from Mental Notes.

Another good song is the soft "Time For A Change" with fine mellotron lines and a smooth melody. There are very little weak moments on this album and songs as "Titus" and "Spellbound" (especially the latter) are very pleasant. There is actually only the very short title track which doesn't really fit in here. Maybe just a wink from this impressive band.

It is difficult to relate this work with prog IMO. But its originality should please a lot of progheads. It must have been quite an experience to see these guys on stage (which I did not).

Seven out of ten would have been my rating; but I will increase it to four stars thanks to the originality of this album.

Review by russellk
4 stars Part music hall vaudeville, part eccentric comedy, part art-rock, this debut album from SPLIT ENZ is the nearest the band ever came to prog rock.

'Mental Notes' is a delicious combination of sympathetically handled tunes, zany originality and understated compositional values. What the album doesn't have is any vestige of virtuosity: these seven lads were more interested in the effect of their music than in extended solos or side-long epics. The songs, while all of high quality, take time to absorb. They've often been compared to 10CC: the production values are far lower and the humour is less acidic, but the comparison is apt. There's also nothing even remotely radio-friendly on this record.

FINN and JUDD's vocals are certainly an acquired taste. Their theatrical delivery serves to heighten the performance aspect of the band, and it's certainly true that SPLIT ENZ come across far better live than in the studio. 'Walking Down the Road' starts the album in fine style, with FINN delivering a restrained performance - in contrast to JUDD's affected vibrato in the magnificent 'Under The Wheel'. Now this is classic ENZ, with a symphonic prog treatment backing JUDD's insanity. Back to FINN with 'Amy', a knees-up of a song and rather dispensable fare compared to the rest of the album. The slapstick 'So Long For Now' is splendid fun. 'Stranger than Fiction', one of the best things the ENZ ever did, melts us with lovely synths before introducing a big beat and a FLOYDIAN guitar strum: make no mistake, this is a monster. You'll probably loathe the vocals - I do - but you get the point fairly quickly. Welcome to SPLIT ENZ's warped sideshow vision of the world. Their prog preoccupations are clearly illustrated in the Gormenghast-influenced lyrics of both this and 'Titus'.

Luscious mellotron descends like a blanket on 'Time for a Change', transforming a simple ballad into a dramatic piece. 'Maybe' returns to the land of vaudeville, and is a welcome break from the growing seriousness of the preceding tracks. 'Titus' lets JUDD weird us out for a bit, then the album finishes with 'Spellbound', one of the ENZ's earliest cuts reworked with studio wizardry into a disturbing sound collage, CHUNN's bass to the fore (MIKE CHUNN would bravely admit to bipolar disorder and front a national mental health campaign).

In more professional hands these tracks could have been worked into something outstanding. PINK FLOYD could have made a couple of billion-selling albums from this material. Thing is, SPLIT ENZ, like most New Zealanders, preferred to paint on a smaller canvas. Modest ambitions, not putting oneself above one's mates and all that.

It's unlikely you've heard anything quite like this. For the adventurous and lovers of melodic art-rock.

Review by Mellotron Storm
4 stars I first became aware of this band in 1980 with their hit "I Got You" which was an addictive little pop tune. I never really heard of them again until CROWDED HOUSE arrived on the scene and we were told that this was really SPLIT ENZ under a different name. So here I am probably 25 years later and they're on a Prog site. What !? Well they deserve to be I can tell you that. My first listen to this album wasn't a good one, in fact I considered putting it aside and reviewing it down the road at some point, then I thought no i'll get this over with now. Second listen something clicked, third listen i'm starting to like it, fourth listen and i'm hooked. Man this is different. Heck the singer sounds like a sheep at times. I know they're from New Zealand but this is ridiculous. You just need to look at the album cover and pictures inside to know they're a zany bunch, and that comes through on their music. Complex at times and moving at others. I did think of GENESIS several times surprisingly enough.

"Walking Down A Road" opens with sounds pulsing before drums then a full sound with vocals kicks in. Lots of piano too. A calm after 3 minutes. A GENESIS vibe briefly after 4 1/2 minutes. "Under The Wheel is a complex piece with mellotron, quivering vocals (bahhh), strummed guitar and piano. Just a fantastic tune. "Amy (Darling)" is fun and uptempo with a country vibe bringing to mind THE DECEMBERISTS. I like the instrumental section after 2 minutes. "So Long For Now" is a vibrant track that I like a lot. "Stranger Than Fiction" opens with synths before turning somewhat experimenal. Strange vocals and a calm follow. I find it emotional when the vocals come in before 4 minutes and later before 5 1/2 minutes.

"Time For A Change" opens with piano as reserved vocals join in. Check out the Post-Rock guitar before there was such a thing 3 minutes in. Mellotron follows. "Maybe" is brighter with piano and vocals standing out. A catchy chorus on this one. "Titus" has almost spoken sheep vocals and mellotron. This song moves me so much. "Spellbound" opens with strummed guitar and piano. Drums and bass follow. Vocals before 2 minutes. The lazy guitar melodies 2 1/2 minutes in sound great. Mellotron later. "Mental Notes" is the 33 second closer.

You have to be patient with this album but in the end it will be worth it. It just keeps getting better.

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars A surprisingly collection of highly original and eclectic songs reminding me of so many bands: from early Rush, early Supertramp, David Bowie, Queen, Rod Stewart, Peter Hammill, Family, The Woods Band, Gentle Giant, Gryphon, The Strawbs, Spirogyra, Jefferson Airplane, The Beatles, The Electric Prunes, The Chocolate Watch Band, The Beau Brummels, The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, 10CC/Godley & Creme, Syd Barrett Pink Floyd, and even some early AC/DC, with many truly unique and innovative ideas thrown in that are all their own. The album may not be engineered and mixed very well (thus the comments by other reviewers referring to the "demo" quality of this album when compared to the versions that were re-recorded a year later with Phil Manzanera). I do not, however, comprehend the Genesis comparisons. These are not the mythological musings of young aristocrats, these are the lyrics and theatrics of Elton John and Bernie Taupin, of some Berlin cabaret, of Italian band Jumbo, of Lennon and McCartney.

As other reviewers have said, there really isn't a weak spot on the album while the two long songs, "Under the Wheel" and "Time for Change" really standout. I'm glad this is under the Crossover sub-genre, though Prog-Related would be just as understandable.

Five stars for a minor masterpiece of fresh, energetic music with many, many unique tricks and twists and an astonishing knack for creating seemingly unnatural stylistic or sonic combinations that work! If only the sound were better! I really, really like this album! Definitely a keeper! This is the kind of creative genius that we should be extolling in Prog World!

Latest members reviews

4 stars The failure of Mental Notes has more to do with youthful enthusiasm combined with a first up experience in the recording studio and a recording engineer having no idea what to do with the music, than it has to do with any of the material on the album. Time For A Change, Spellbound and Titus are ... (read more)

Report this review (#2405696) | Posted by iluvmarillion | Sunday, May 24, 2020 | Review Permanlink

4 stars After three years of singles only, Mental Notes allowed Split Enz more room to stretch out, and prog out! It veers very close to being symphonic prog in several places - "Under The Wheel" and "Stranger Than Fiction" particularly - and even in the poppier tracks there are still wigged out prog moment ... (read more)

Report this review (#1412860) | Posted by sl75 | Tuesday, May 12, 2015 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Mental Notes is probably one of the most underrated records of all time. It is truly beutiful and underrated. Most people know the Split Enz from their pop music though the start of there discography is an amazing prog album fronted by Phil Judd and Tim Finn By the start of the album, you can t ... (read more)

Report this review (#1403077) | Posted by A_Flower | Thursday, April 23, 2015 | Review Permanlink

5 stars In 1975 seven quirky young New Zealanders gathered together to record one of the most unlikely but true masterpieces of the whole progressive movement. This record is a veritable orgy of musical fusions, so many different styles and so much ambition all carefully harnessed in a wonderfully rich ... (read more)

Report this review (#163414) | Posted by acrylic_steel | Saturday, March 8, 2008 | Review Permanlink

5 stars What a remarkable album this is! I cannot still melt the fact that it is so gravely overlooked. This is a must have in every prognuts collection, right next to In the Court of the Crimson King and Foxtrot. It starts with the majestic Walking Down a Road which pays resemblence to Genesis with qui ... (read more)

Report this review (#152761) | Posted by SplitEnz | Sunday, November 25, 2007 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Ok. This is probably the best place to start if you are interested in the early Split Enz sound before they went pop. Split Enz at this point comprised of some quite eccentric and colourful individuals (considering this is NZ in the 70s - ie dull). This is certainly Enz most proggy, you can hea ... (read more)

Report this review (#122456) | Posted by Cheesecakemouse | Wednesday, May 16, 2007 | Review Permanlink

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