Key Points:

SPLIT ENZ

Enz To Enz - The Ultimate Split Enz Box Set

(Warner)

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Herald Rating:

* * * * *

Verdict:

Still sounding ahead of their time, from beginning to enz

Split Enz fans will have heard all this before - no doubt even the rare Luton demo recordings the band did in 1978 which are included here.

And for newbies wanting to get acquainted with our most famous, not to mention inventive, bands you could always go to the second-hand record shop and pick up the back catalogue on vinyl for a song. Although, nowadays you pay a premium for a half-decent copy of the band's first - and best - album, Mental Notes from 1975.

However, the 11 albums in this box set have been remastered by Split Enz multi-instrumentalist and studio whiz Eddie Rayner, so you won't have heard the frenzied I See Red, My Mistake's cheeky sashay, and I Hope I Never's melting serenade sound like this before.

And besides, break it down and at around $13 an album, having the entire Split Enz collection in one box is a bargain.

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What's missing is a DVD. Then again, Split Enz songs - of which there are 126 included here - are colourful and fruity enough without visuals.

What's deliciously gripping about the band is how creepy, menacing and dark the songs can be while still having that passionate pop sensibility brought out by the likes of Tim Finn's uppity vocals, clattery child-like percussion, beautiful piano bursts, and shrill stabs of keyboards.

Take the whacky and wild Bold As Brass and Sugar and Spice off Dizrythmia from 1977; the brooding Poor Boy and manic Shark Attack off 1980's True Colours; and then there's a song like Stranger Than Fiction, from Mental Notes (there's also a version on Second Thoughts), which is just plain creepy.

As mentioned earlier, also part of this set is the Rootin' Tootin Luton Tapes, a collection of recordings made by the band after they had split with their record company, management, and founding member Phil Judd. Basically they were down and out in Britain and it sounds like they got together to cheer themselves up.

The Luton Tapes, which were released on album last year, are a diverse bunch of gems, from the zany, quick-strum opener Miss Haps, to the thigh-slapping ditty of Neil Finn's Holy Smoke, to the playfully primal Animal Lover.

The best track is swirling anthem Carried Away which sounds like the Skeptics, another revolutionary New Zealand band. That's Split Enz for you though, ahead of their time even today.

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