Forty years ago Split Enz released their fifth album, True Colours. It featured songs that would become hits before ascending to true classic status; we're talking Shark Attack, Poor Boy, I Hope I Never and, of course, their globe-conquering breakthrough, I Got You.
This powerhouse tracklist made True Colours the band's most commercially successful album. It spent two weeks in our No 1 spot before ping-ponging up and down the Top 20 for a whopping 54 weeks and becoming the global breakthrough that had, until that point, been one step ahead of them.
As an album, True Colours does not muck about. It barrels out of your stereo surfing a wave of frenzied energy and fearless ideas with a cool, self-assured confidence.
"There was desperation there," Tim Finn reflects. "We knew it was make-or-break time for the band. We were up against it."
Was desperation their true colour? Perhaps. By 1979 Split Enz were hometown heroes, both here and in Australia, but despite best efforts and quality of early material like I See Red, Give it a Whirl, My Mistake, Charlie and Late Last Night, the rest of the world remained simply uninterested in the theatrical art-pop being made by this group of outlandish kooks in multicoloured suits.
"We had two really tough years in England before we came back to live again in Australia in '79. Some real struggles," Finn continues. "We'd lost our label and our management and didn't have any money. Some of the band had to get day jobs."
These hard times are not apparent when you spin the album, with Finn describing it as having "an up energy".
"We knew how good we were live and were feeling that confidence within ourselves," he says. "We had played hundreds of shows so we were really tight. We knew that we had it as a band."
It was a precarious mental state to be in, with one foot dangling over the precipice ready to fall, the other confident on the security of steady ground.
"We weren't that young anymore," he says sighing. "Neil was young, probably 21-22. I was 27. You can get a bit dark and a bit desperate and feel things bearing down upon you. But every time we rehearsed we could just go back into that ecstatic state. It was definitely moving between those two states."
Finn suggests this is what makes it such an exciting record to listen to.
"It has something special about it. The feeling of desperation balanced with the feeling of power and intensity and good themes that people connect with. The lyrics have a nice elliptical quality, bittersweet. I Hope I Never is an example of that. You can feel the yearning of the song but at the same time the lyric is saying, 'I hope I never have to see you again.'"
He chuckles softly, tickled by the juxtaposition between the song's pining musicality and its antagonistic lyric, before saying, "I was having a lot of fun with words. I like to theatrically embody a feeling and really play it out large. Wordplay and rhyming, I'm addicted to it to this day and there's a lot of that in the record."
To celebrate its 40th anniversary a remixed and revitalised True Colours has just been released. The group's synth player, Eddie Rayner, handled remix duties while percussionist and artist Noel Crombie looked after the album's cover art, with the vinyl reissue coming out in an assortment of striking colour combinations just as it did in 1980. Finn says he bounced between the two.
"There are little treats all over the place," he enthuses, clearly chuffed by the open and spacious sound of the new mix, which allows long-lost nuance to shine and reveals sonic treasures for Split Enz trainspotters to discover. "Dave Tickle [original producer] was obsessed with streamlining, which really worked on radio and we were happy to go along with that. But to hear those restored, after so many years, is really great."
He says the anniversary "sort of crept up" on him, although Split Enz had recently been on his mind.
"There had been some talk earlier last year about possibly doing a show," he says casually down the line. Sensing rapidly escalating excitement levels, he quickly adds, "That hasn't come to anything at this point," before moving on to some True Colours trivia.
"Right up until the last minute no one was sure what the first single should be, which sounds amazing now, but it was a toss-up between I Got You and I Hope I Never," he says. "You couldn't imagine two more different songs. We knew, in the end, we should put out I Got You but no one had any idea that it was going to do what it did. It screamed up the charts. There was just so much buzz around that record. There are still people who come up to me to talk about a certain song or what it means to them. There's a lot of enjoyment and pleasure to be had if you do connect with people."
Then he gently laughs as he's struck by a memory.
"I remember driving around Melbourne at the time and I did an illegal U-turn across the tram tracks - just blatant disregard for the law - and this cop pulled me over. As soon as he saw me he went, 'Oh! G'day Tim' and then waved me on. That sounds trite in a way but it was a good feeling."
Being let off a ticket is the best feeling in the world, isn't it?
"It doesn't happen so much these days I have to say," he jokes. "I got yelled at in Melbourne a year back by this cop because I did a little bit of jaywalking. You know, 'You bloody idiot!'"
Then Finn grins and says, "He obviously wasn't connecting to my new solo record."