G'day, all & sundry -

My maiden voyage post; hope that this hasn't been discussed before. However, has anyone noticed how varied each album sounded in terms of recording since Nigel and Neil joined? I think that Dizrhythmia exploded with life, especially with the arrangements. Frenzy has great songs but seemed recorded through cotton wool. True Colours speaks (sings?) for itself, but Corroboree/Waiata sounds (aurally) similar to Frenzy. Time & Tide shimmers and sparkles, yet Conflicting Emotions is very cluttered (& possibly the most dated in terms of sound). See Ya 'Round has some of the best songs in the cannon - Voices, Breakin' My Back, Years Go By, ADZ (great lyrics for contemporary society), and I Walk Away (& I don't see this record as a bridge to the Crowded House debut). It almost seems that there was one album that was spot on followed by an album that lost its way a little, followed by another brilliant album. Please don't think that I'm dismissing specific albums as I still love the songs (Ghost Girl, Marooned, Wail, The Devil You Know, Love Is The Roughest Toughest Game In The World, and Ships are amongst big favourites); it's just that sound of the recordings vary so much. I have the originals and the remasters; the originals are listened to more due to having less compression. I know we're very lucky for Split Enz to have existed; the luxury of a new album every year bar '78 was almost taken for granted....I cannot believe that it's 35 years this year since the Enz farewelled each other in terms of writing/releasing new music. Nobody as a BAND where everyone contributed so much all the time seems to have come close. Any thoughts?

Original Post

Hi Alphonse,

Have you ever read Stranger Than Fiction?  It's a great read and gives a lot of background behind the recordings.   

I think each of the albums that could be considered a downward dip - Frenzy, Corroboree, and Conflicting Emotions - had different reasons for not turning out as well as they might have.  Unfortunately it HAS been years since I read Stranger Than Fiction so I don't remember the circumstances under which Frenzy was recorded, except I seem to remember Mike Chunn being perplexed that the Luton recordings was not used for the album. I am listening to the "Rootin Lootin Luton Tapes" second disk after reading your post, and I think you will agree that they would in fact have made a better album than the released Frenzy. Possibly the tough times they were in made the band want to not reach back to the older recordings when they had signed a deal; I forget.

I forget about the circumstances wrt to Corroboree. Funny that you say it sounds like Frenzy to you, as I always think it sounds like True Colours Part 2. 

And then Conflicting Emotions followed the band being pretty exhausted by all the touring and Six Months, plus Tim was distracted by his solo career. 

Hello there, Chris -

Many thanks for the shared thoughts. I've ended up with 2 copies of the Chunn (auto)biography for some reason and yes, I remember his thoughts about the Luton sessions. The double CD of Luton is an entity of its own that fits so well between Dizrhythmia and the Rayner remix of Frenzy (despite a handful of songs doubling up between Luton and Frenzy). I had the impression from Enzology 5 in particular that the band was very fortunate that Michael Gudinski came back into the picture with Frenzy funding despite not allowing David Tickle to produce that L.P. as the band had such a lean financial year in 1978. The Luton liner notes makes for fascinating reading as well because the band was so prolific in their writing.

My reference to Frenzy and Corroboree sounding similar was in terms of the sonic nature of those albums. I've heard a number of people think of Corroboree as a second True Colours but I still cannot hear it....Corroboree has looser arrangements (like Frenzy) in some songs whereas True Colours is tighter than tight. True Colours is a very electric album (if that makes sense?): no acoustic guitar, no ride cymbals, 1 song only with a piano, and sadly barely any Noel. Neil's guitar sounds crisper on True Colours, too...but the beauty about discussing music is that everyone's opinion counts because they're valid to each of us. I'm very glad that Eddie remixed Frenzy and Corroboree away from such a stifled sound; some of the band's best songs are on those records.  I'm also glad that he didn't remix anything else as well; the Split Enz canon still stands up phenomenally well.

What are your thoughts about Conflicting Emotions? It's still the album that I struggle with the most in many respects even though most of the songs sounded great on stage when the band toured for the first time with Paul. Cheers,

Alphonse.

Hi Alphonse,

Sorry for the long delay in replying!!

I think when people talk about Corroboree / True Colours... I wonder if they're actually just talking about the place of Eddie's keys.  I certainly don't think it's about tight vs loose arrangements, something which I don't think I am really qualified to comment.

Re Conflicting Emotions, well, I can't say that I like it very much to be honest. Tim didn't have enough to contribute and too much of the songwriting weight fell on Neil. Or maybe the album just came too soon after Time & Tide? Not that I think it was exactly right after, but Neil's work on See Ya Round is actually better in my opinion. I'd rather listen to most of his tracks on SYR than, say, "Bullet Brain & Cactus Head". 

Hello there, Chris - 

Good to hear from you. My allusion towards the arrangements being tighter and looser between True Colours and Waiata/Corroboree  is only from personal musical experience as a pianist and as a drummer when working these tunes out for my own amusement. I think that Eddie was and is very clever with his choice of keyboard sounds overall as these become incredibly dated in a very short length of time. I quietly think that the 1980 - 1987 period of music in general is filled with brilliant songs and melodic ideas from a variety of bands and writers from all over the world, but the production and the sound of many dated swiftly because there was so much amour for pastel-coloured electronic technology.

Please excuse me if I am wrong, but I think that the period between Time & Tide and Conflicting Emotions was the longest period in between album releases (although Dizrhythmia to Frenzy must come close). I think that Conflicting Emotions is a good album but it's not a good Split Enz album. The key factor for me is in the writing: Eddie and Nigel (+ Noel on the band compositions) were vital for a number of Tim and Neil's songs on Time & Tide (along with Eddie's 'Pioneer'); however, there seems to be no collaboration of this nature anywhere on Conflicting Emotions. The '82/'83 period is such a dichotomy; very easy to say decades in hindsight but the 1983 songs sound to me almost as though the Enz were emulating the sound of other people in some ways, especially where/when drum machines were being used. I feel particularly bad for Noel - I think that all 5 Enz drummers are superb in their own way - and why Ricky Fataar was brought in for 'Message To My Girl' is something I don't understand as he sounds a lot like Noel on that track (ironic for Paul many years later with the recording of 'Weather With You.'). I also wonder how much leeway Hugh Padgham was allowed in terms of being a producer, especially if Eddie then had to co-produce the record. 

As mentioned before, I thoroughlyenjoy sharing views and bouncing ideas. I've often wondered had Tim not been given the green light for 'Escapade' if a 1983 Split Enz album could've been like this: (Side 1) Staring At The Embers/In A Minor Key/Strait Ol' Line/Through The Years/The Devil You Know. (Side 2) Message To My Girl/Growing Pains/Kia Kaha (Ever Be Strong)/Fraction Too Much Friction/Our Day.

However, I'm sure that you would go one better, Chris! Keep happy, mate. All the best, 

Alphonse. 

 

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