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Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Split Enz...Mental Notes...1975 release...underrated progressive rock album

Split Enz  formed in 1972 in New Zealand, by founding members Phil Judd and Tim Finn. One of the most successful New Zealand musical acts of the late 1970's and early 1980's, the band would go on to achieve chart success in New Zealand, Australia and Canada – most notably with their 1980 single "I Got You" – and built a cult following elsewhere. Their musical style was eclectic, incorporating influences from art rock, vaudeville, swing, punk, rock, new wave, and pop. Split Enz established a reputation for a distinctive visual style, thanks partly to their colourful, offbeat costumes and hairstyles.

The group's career falls into two phases. They began as an acoustic folk band in the early 1970's and by the time they recorded their first album they had changed to electric instruments and took on a progressive rock sound. From 1977 onward, with the departure of songwriter/guitarist Phil Judd and the arrival of Neil Finn, Split Enz' sound began to move from progressive rock towards new wave and pop.

In two weeks during May/June 1975 Split Enz recorded their debut album Mental Notes at Festival's Studio 24 in Sydney. It was produced by David Russell, who was also their tour manager in 1975 – 76. The engineer was Festival staffer Richard Batchens.

After its release in July it sold 12,000 copies in Australia, reaching No. 35 on the album chart for one week, and peaking at No. 7 in New Zealand. It was also a critical breakthrough. Much of the material derived from Tim Finn's and Phil Judd's fascination with the work of English writer and artist Mervyn Peake – notably "Spellbound", "Stranger Than Fiction" (their concert centrepiece) and "Titus", named after the hero of Peake's Gormenghast trilogy.

The album cover was painted by Phil Judd in 1973–74. The original painting is now in the collection of Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.

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