Split Enz “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…”
“Walking Down A Road”