Saturday, April 23, 2011

Dizrythmia (1977)

I don't remember now how I ended up with early Split Enz albums, before their early '80s breakthrough as an all too prototypical New Wave act. Some clerk at a record store must have told me to buy them. The first, Mental Notes, I recall as something of a wan Roxy Music knockoff. This, their third, was more to my taste, more of a pop album, dotted by horns and keyboard strings and lusty guitar licks, aided and abetted no doubt by producer Geoff Emerick, late of the Beatles, Badfinger, America, etc., etc. Neil Finn had joined the band and makes his first LP appearance with this one; brother Tim was a founding member and indeed involved in writing nearly all the songs here, wholly or at least in part, along with Eddie Rayner, who claims co-credit on four of the nine tracks. Only one song even approaches anything like a stellar status, but they are nonetheless all perfectly workmanlike about the way they hammer together hooks and melodies in the service of earworm fare that often continues to echo through cerebral cortexes hours and days later. That's the Finns' wheelhouse, basically. Two here were even hits Down Under: "My Mistake" and "Bold as Brass," and it's not hard to imagine them playing on the radio. A couple of others, at six-minutes-plus each, recall the band's collective Roxy Music infatuation, but are not without their charms. The knockout song for me, "Charlie," is also a bit long at 5:31. But it's just lovely all through, with a loping bass figure, a vocal left to twist in space on various breaks, and memorably lush cascading piano flourishes. It's a real show-stopper, forever calling attention to itself by the ache it suddenly produces any time I let the album play. Tim Finn and Rayner were disappointed with the vocal, but Emerick reportedly argued for keeping it and ultimately prevailed. I would like to personally thank him for that. Interestingly (or not), as a vinyl album this is one that played better for me "upside down"—that is, while I usually tended to play both sides when I listened to it, as I did with many albums, in this case (and a very few others) I preferred to listen to the second side first. Somehow that sequencing worked better for me. I'm not sure how I came to these decisions, or even what compelled me in the first place to give it a try.

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