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Split Enz

Festival Mushroom Records/Festival Mushroom Records . R4 . COLOR . 185 mins . G . PAL


Though pop and rock music has been well served on home video for many years, it never really got past niche status - sure, everyone saw music videos on Countdown and Sounds, but how many actually shelled out the cash to buy a short VHS tape of them that would get watched once and then be left on the shelf for years? Unwanted and unremembered because the sound was terrible and finding the song you had an urge to see and hear took so long you’d forget why you wanted to hear it in the first place, tape-based collections of music videos, live tracks and half-hearted documentaries were snapped up by a few hundred fans each time and that was that.

For music, DVD Video is a revelation. Suddenly a compilation can be just like an audio CD - pull it out, press play and skip to the track you want instantly. CD quality digital sound, broadcast quality pictures are standard (as long as the source materials allow it, of course). But wait - there’s more! DVD’s versatility and massive storage space means what would once have been a simple clip compile now gets to be quite a bit more. Yes, music’s been waiting for DVD. And it’s arrived in the nick of time, encouraging record companies to dig through their video vaults before much of their invaluable history disintegrates and is lost forever. The sad and sorry state of record company tape archives has in recent years been noted by artists and producers who’ve tried to recover old audio masters for re-releases and compilations, only to find them mouldy and on the brink of oblivion - if they could be found at all. That’s bad enough from an audio standpoint; when it comes to analogue video, though, a deteriorating master tape is far more noticeable and far harder to fix.

Imagine the challenge, then, that faced Festival Mushroom’s Dave Price as he and Peter Green (guru of all things Enz) set about finding source material for one of the first releases from FMR’s newly-formed DVD division - a generous DVD compilation of Split Enz’s video clips along with a bunch of other material, some of it never seen before. Failing masters, a difficult licensing department, some water-damaged tape and a couple of old cans of film later, the disc got done - and the result is one which fans of Split Enz will be thrilled with. Not just the die-hard fans, either; while there’s a ton of rare material here that’ll keep them happy, anyone who has ever had the pleasure of having the Enz in their lives can treat this as the fully remastered 71-minute Greatest Video Hits compilation that it is, and enjoy everything else as though it were one of the most fascinating DVD extras sections ever. Which, of course, it is as well. (For the purposes of this review, we’ll use exactly that approach - we’ll treat the clips as the main feature and everything else as “extras”).

The 18 music videos cover the full gamut of Split Enz’s musical (and visual!) styles, from the frenetic, whimsical and highly theatrical clips from the early records (you really haven’t seen the out-there side of the Enz until you’ve seen Phil Judd’s brilliant Sweet Dreams!) to the gentle balladry and straight-to-camera simplicity of Neil Finn’s Message To My Girl. In between there’s some of the most inventive and thrilling pop music you’ll ever hear, with accompanying visuals that show not only why the band was such an experience to watch perform live, but also how well their inventiveness served them as music video clips went from Countdown curiosity to essential marketing tool. Long before the so-called music video “boom”, Split Enz was reaching a huge Australian audience via their regular appearances and clips on Countdown, and by the time they landed the Big Hit with True Colours, most of the country was already well aware of who they were - you couldn’t, for example, ignore the clip for My Mistake when it turned up in the midst of late-'70s pop hell on a Sunday evening!

The full track listing for the clips: Sweet Dreams, Lovey Dovey, Late Last Night, Bold As Brass, My Mistake, Jamboree, Hermit McDermitt, Give It A Whirl, I See Red, I Got You, I Hope I Never, One Step Ahead, History Never Repeats, Dirty Creature, Pioneer/Six Months In A Leaky Boat, Strait Old Line, Message To My Girl, I Walk Away.

This isn’t a 100% complete clip collection, but it’s damn close - and it’s a remarkable gathering of songs and visuals that are full to the brim with inspiration, inventiveness - and some really, really fond memories.


Anyone who expected 16:9 anamorphic video can stop reading now and go find themselves a nice Eminem movie to play with. The rest of you that are still here, of course, will already know that digital video didn’t exist back when these clips were made, and as we mentioned above, analogue videotape deteriorates rapidly and severely unless it is stored in the most clinical of conditions. Most of the source tapes for this compilation were stored on the floor of a dank Port Melbourne warehouse for quite a few years, so the DVD producers and the people at South Melbourne post production house Digital Pictures had their work cut out for them just to get them in fit enough shape for the DVD age. So you will see plenty of visual glitches, all of them analogue - tape dropouts, colour noise and bleeding, and various other odd things that old analogue video formats could do when in a bad way. However, you will only notice most of these glitches if you’re sitting there looking for them. And you really shouldn’t be doing that. You should be enjoying the show, and leaving the glitchspotting to those of us silly enough to volunteer to try and find them.

Don’t think for a second that this is a visual mess, though. Digital Pictures has done an absolutely stunning job in bringing these treasures into the digital age in the nick of time. But there are some things that simply can’t be perfectly digitally fixed, which probably explains the disclaimer that pops up on screen when you put the disc in the player. Ironically, some of the early clips look more vibrant and less deteriorated than the most recent ones; one notable exception is I See Red, which was transferred from an actual film print! Apparently Peter Green, like all proper fans, held on to anything Enz he was able to get, and one of those things was a film print of that clip. Dug out and dusted off, it could be freshly transferred to video using the best 21st century digital telecine available. For those who grew up with it, it’s like seeing the clip for the first time. Note to bands and artists everywhere; be sure and give your biggest fans copies of everything, just in case someone wants to do a DVD of you in 20 years’ time!

The video quality of the documentary and the various other extras is also dependent on their age and condition, and they were for the most part not given the same lavish restoration treatment as the clips. But this is history, not product, and there’s really nothing to complain about when you get the chance to see stuff this rare.

The only one small criticism we have when it comes to the visual side of the disc is the MPEG encoding, which sometimes reacts a little too obviously to video noise, grain and other glitches, and as a result creates small problems of its own. However, it bears mentioning that there’s over three hours of video material on this single dual-layered disc, and they’ve squeezed it all on without too many problems. The gigabyte or so of disc space that remains empty, though, could have been used to give the clips a bit of extra digital breathing space.


For years, video clip compilations have simply used the audio tracks on whatever master tape was at hand as the source for the sound you heard at home. Don’t laugh too hard, either - it’s still common practice, though not as perilous these days since studios and record companies have been making major efforts to improve sound quality on clips since the mid-'80s. Nevertheless, when you’re dealing with an archival collection of clips where the early tapes - and quite often the later ones as well - have mono soundtracks or wall-to-wall tape hiss or toy-radio EQ, nervousness is completely understandable! Even today, some clips are produced with mono sound, for example (our review of the George DVD provides a case in point) and the only way around that at the DVD production stage is to re-dub the audio, using high-quality master tapes or even the good old standard CD release if need be. It’s simple to do, but rarely done. Thankfully, every single clip here has been given the treatment, and the result is stunning. The sound is, quite simply, as good as that of a modern CD, and the depth and clarity of the audio takes attention well away from video glitches and instead immerses you in the songs and their visuals. It’s quite magnificent.

Only one criticism (there’s always one!) - while Linear PCM would have been the obvious format of choice here, the disc producers have instead opted for Dolby Digital 2.0. The problem isn’t that Dolby Digital is a lossily compressed format - most won’t notice any differences in that department - but rather that Dolby’s dialog normalisation feature - essential for movies - holds the audio down to way too low a level for music compared to an audio CD mastered the way they are today (i.e. lively’n’loud!). Using PCM would have allowed the disc’s audio to have been offered at audio CD levels, something that isn’t acceptable for movie viewers but is utterly desirable for the music fan who buys his or her favourite band’s DVD.

But hey, you’ve got a volume control. Wind it up, and enjoy the crystal-clear sound - a perfect example of how a clip compilation should be done.


A veritable feast of extra material has been sourced for this disc, drawing on archives from all over the world. While it’s been a case of “get what can be gotten” rather than “get everything” (discarded masters, rights issues and sheer cost all come into play here) what’s here is brilliant - particularly the feature-length Big Extra, which has never been seen before. Special mention, by the way, must go to the wonderfully-designed moving menus, which are actually all part of a giant “virtual menu” which is zoomed in and out on as you go from section to section, backed by Enz music. They look great, they run super-smoothly, and best of all they’re very, very fast. Brilliant stuff.

Documentary - Spellbound: Bruce Sheridan and Kerry Brown put together this 45-minute history of the Enz in 1993, and it finally makes its way into people’s homes on this disc - just in time for its tenth birthday. Narrated by Sam Neill, it’s an illustrated blow-by-blow account of how bravado, luck, timing, cleverness and audacity all played a part in Split Enz’s journey from wacky New Zealand art-rock band to million-selling stars. Essential viewing, and worth the price of the disc all on its own.

Live: 54 minutes of collected live footage, from six sources - the 1970s BBC show Sight and Sound (15 minutes), the 1980 True Colours tour (7 min) and the 1981 Outback tour (9 min), 1984’s Enz With A Bang Auckland gig and associated documentary footage (17 min), a frenetic three-minute Shark Attack from the 1993 Anniversary New Zealand tour that everyone wanted to find a way to be at (and for which the Spellbound documentary was produced) and finally a 1979 Countdown performance of She Got Body, She Got Soul (which would a few years later be a huge hit for actress Jo Kennedy under the name Body And Soul, recorded for the movie Starstruck - which also featured Phil Judd’s new band The Swingers. But we digress.) Video quality throughout is surprisingly solid considering the material.

The Enz In Pictures: A modest photo and poster gallery, featuring a poster for “the first laser etched record”, the famous shimmering patterned vinyl edition of True Colours. They could never have known at the time that within a decade, almost all records would be laser-etched…!

Discography: Pages that present each of the Split Enz album releases along with basic info on releases and lineup (nothing really meaty here for the trainspotters, but then, they’ll know all that stuff already!) and the added bonus of short sound samples of each and every track, a brilliant smorgasbord for those lucky people who are discovering the band’s music for the first time.

Easter Eggs: There are three of them, and the hidden video clip is one of the best Things on the disc... We won’t give away the secret here, but Amy has listed the details of the eggs in this site’s famous Easter Eggs Section.


If someone could go back in a time machine and tell the band that they should hold onto archival copies of everything because DVD is coming in 20 years or so, then we’d probably have ourselves a boxed set of brilliance by now. But like so much of the film and video and periphery of music history, it’s been a case of using what survives and making the best of it for this compilation. And despite the challenges, the result is stunning - a celebration of the music and unique presence of one of the best bands of all time that’s not only a must-have for long-time fans, but also an essential item for anyone who’s ever heard a Split Enz song and thought “must investigate further”. Here’s your chance. Turn it up nice and loud.

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      And I quote...
    "A celebration of the music and unique presence of one of the best bands of all time..."
    - Anthony Horan
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