The Rockin’ Review series continues with a flash back to 1980 with a band that seemed on the verge of big things, only to blow it all up and see part of the group achieve bigger things elsewhere. We’re talking about New Zealand modern rockers Split Enz, who saw the music world catch up to them around 1980 with the release of their ‘True Colours’ album.
The History: Though finding success much earlier in their native New Zealand, it wasn’t until their fifth album that the rest of the planet caught on to Split Enz. Vocalist Neil Finn took more of a songwriting lead on ‘True Colours,’ dealing in more mature themes that seemed to connect with the listening audience. Initially catching fire in their native New Zealand and the neighboring Australia, it wasn’t long before A&M picked up the disc for an international release and Chrysalis issued the album in the U.S. The album topped the charts in both New Zealand and Australia, and peaked at No. 40 in the U.S., which was a solid start for a relatively unknown act stateside.
The Song(s) You Know: “I Got You” was not the initial favorite for the band as a lead single, but it turned out to be the right one. With a slightly uneasy opening guitar lick and spooky synth line, the track opened with a more angular vibe mirroring some of the breaking new wave sound of the day, but by the time the chorus kicked in, there was an undeniable catchiness that captured the ears of listeners. There was also a video for the song, featuring Finn standing solitary in a room with the rest of the band still inside a picture on a wall behind him, only coming to life during the chorus.
The Song(s) You Should Get to Know: “Missing Person” was the track that the band initially considered as a first single release. With a bouncier vibe, it does earn a place among the better tracks on the album, but was only released as a live b-side to the song “Poor Boy,” a track that has a Talking Heads-esque vibe to it. The track that did actually end up being their next single after “I Got You” was the heartfelt ballad “I Hope I Never,” which featured Neil’s brother Tim Finn on vocals and piano. It enjoyed moderate success in Australia and New Zealand, but never cracked the U.S. charts.
The Conclusion: Split Enz would remain busy, releasing four more albums over the next four years before splitting up. But have polished themselves over four albums prior to ‘True Colours,’ it was only a matter of time before Split Enz earned the break they so richly deserved. The Finn brothers went their separate ways, with Tim embarking on a solo career and Neil leading a new band called Crowded House with fellow Enz-er Paul Hester, but ‘True Colours’ gives both siblings a chance to shine with standout keyboard work from Eddie Rayner, and solid low end efforts from Noel Crombie, Malcolm Green and Nigel Griggs. ‘True Colours’ feels very much of its time and one of the stepping stones to the new wave explosion to come.
If you would like to purchase Split Enz’ ‘True Colours’ and check it out for yourself, you can do so here.