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Split Enz - Second Thoughts [Aka: Mental Notes] CD (album) cover


Split Enz


Crossover Prog

2.89 | 30 ratings

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4 stars (4.5 stars) Second Thoughts (released as Mental Notes in the UK, Canada and US) is a unique collection of highly inspired, idiosyncratic, and painstakingly-crafted songs from Split Enz's so-called progressive rock period, evidently destined to be forever under-appreciated. As half of the tracks are in fact reworked versions of Split Enz's first album, the Australasian 'Mental Notes', this second release is often compared to the first, and opinions are divided on which versions of the songs are superior. The original Mental Notes is undoubtedly a creative high point for the band, and with its more extensive use of electric guitar, mellotron and symphonic arrangements, it is arguably more representative of the progressive rock tradition; on the other hand, Second Thoughts, which replaces some of the guitar and mellotron parts by brass instruments and the violin, has superior production values (it was produced by Roxy Music's Phil Manzanera), and greater integration of vaudevillian, jazz and pop elements (already hinting at the Split Enz's future directions). Considering Second Thoughts' more vibrant and defined sound, and the fact that it also includes the gems, 'Late Last Night' and 'The Woman Who Loves You', it is in my view (and others strongly disagree) the better of the two albums. Be that as it may, it is certain that the album's unusual mix of musical styles, abrupt changes in rhythms and melody, and eccentric theatrics will always be unfathomable to many listeners, including prog fans. Yet, the sheer originality and diversity of the material is really quite exceptional (assuming Second Thoughts is considered in its own right and not compared to Mental Notes) and for this, the album deserves true praise and recognition. Indeed, from the complex, musical structure of the mysterious 7-minute 'Stranger Than Fiction', to the commanding opening and eclectic musical arrangements of 'Walking Down a Road', to the infectious melody and keenly romantic lyrics of 'Late Last Night', passing by the darker piano-based composition and brooding lyrics of 'Time for a Change', changing two thirds of the way into a powerful electric guitar-led instrumental, the upbeat folk/vaudevillian/pop of the bright 'Matinee Idyll' and amusing 'Lovey Duvey', the strange humour, piano and spoon solos of 'The Woman Who Loves You', which further incorporates music hall/vaudeville influences, not to mention the gentle folk-rock and neo-classicism of 'Titus', and touching despair of 'Sweet Dreams', each track has a uniquely endearing quality to it. Once discovered, the album as a whole offers a layered landscape of original musical arrangements, intriguing sounds, evocative melodies, and passionately sung and composed lyrics.

Released towards the end of 1976 around the eve of the punk explosion in the UK, not fitting within any musical genre of any time, it is not surprising that Split Enz's Second Thoughts was largely ignored, though it helped to initiate, albeit in a minor way, the first cult following of the band outside of Australia and New Zealand. With the subsequent departure of co-leader Phil Judd, Split Enz gradually moved towards a more pop-oriented, yet still idiosyncratic direction, but it would still take some years before the band would head in a more commercial direction. Split Enz's later work is of course more well known and impressive as well (though still generally under-appreciated), but they never quite recaptured the bold originality of this earlier period...except perhaps in a very different way in 1982's excellent Time and Tide.

filster8 | 4/5 |


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