Split Enz “Mental Notes”

Mental Notes

Split Enz, a band that Australia would dearly love to call its own, was formed in New Zealand in 1973. Their early albums and legendary live performances conjured a dedicated fan base that fed and clothed the band until radio friendly unit shifters like “I See Red “ and “I Got You“ made the band a household name. Their influence and legacy in the Antipodes cannot be underestimated.

The nucleus of the group in 1975 was Tim Finn and Phil Judd, who share vocal duties on Mental Notes and are credited with forming the band two years earlier. The line-up waxed and waned over the lifetime of the band with only two members who played on Mental Notes being present for the final iteration of the band in 1985.

Firmly founded in a progressive art rock/pop base Mental Notes cuts itself a niche that could only have existed outside Europe or America. This album is the pinnacle of Split Enz early period. The style, complexity, musicality, and grace that earmark Mental Notes would underpin the music of Split Enz (and all the braches of the Enz family tree) for decades to come.

There are so many elements present in the tracks of Mental Notes that only exceptional musicianship and hours upon hours of rehearsal could make this album sound as tight and bright as it is. Mental Notes nods its head to the music of the time but only as a sort of passing farewell, as the band heads off at full throttle into uncharted territory.

Crafted into sonically complex layers, patterns and textures, the sound nonetheless rides on a melodic base that makes it music that your Grandmother could tap her foot to, but lurking just under the surface is an aural landscape akin to an underwater dream. Mandolin picks a melody underscored by synthesized strings, vocals glide by on wings while drums punctuate a pattern that turns left and right and leaves you in a head space totally new but uncannily familiar. Musical Déjà vu.

Beautiful, captivating, dynamic, challenging, invigorating, rich and fulfilling. Mental Notes deserves headphones or at least a decent level of volume. As one famous Australian music critic said, “Do yourself a favor…”

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“Walking Down A Road”

:D CD Reissue | 2006 | Digipak | Mushroom Records | Buy @ Amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1975 | Search @ eBay ]

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  • Brendan

    Solid review, Chris. Looking forward to learning about more lesser known gems from your collection in Syndney, Australia. I can tell Split Enz has the type of sound that takes getting used to… these bands always end up being my favorite…

  • Deiter

    I bought this on vinyl when it first came out (and I live in California!). I don’t remember how I found out about it. (Later, I joined a band with two other members who loved the album too.) This to me was their golden moment: Incredible musicianship and production. Disrhythmia was good but not quite up to this. I was always amazed at their later new wave transformation. True Colors was a gem too but Mental Notes was the masterpiece.

  • Muzza

    The band was formed before 1973. I saw Split Enz playing at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand in 1971 then spelt as Spllt Ends. They were Auckland University (New Zealand) students previous to going full time as a band.
    I felt they lost an added dimension when they dropped the electric violin from their range of instruments.
    They are a New Zealand band who went to Australia in 1974 and recorded Mental Notes before traveling further to expand their horizons in the UK and USA.

  • Mirrorgirl

    I bought this album on first release too. It remains to this day (36 years later) my all time favourite album. Your review is excellent, and yet nothing can prepare someone for the brilliance of the aural landscape that was captured on this masterpiece, it simply must be heard to be believed. I own copies on vinyl, audio cassette,CD and on my MP3. It is never far from me. Hope others will listen to it.

  • Carlo

    Yes. I too bought this album back in 1975 not long after I saw them support Leo Sayer at Festival Hall Melbourne. I remember me and my best mate sitting around in his bedroom listening to this on his hi-fi. After a few listens we came to the conclusion that it was the finest album ever recorded in Australia! We think that it still might be today.

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