True Colours, New Colours
Of all the cruel jokes in the world, tribute albums tend to be a specially crafted insult. But this one, this is different. This one is brazen as all fuck. Warner Music decided to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Split Enz’ dynamic and dynamite True Colours – our greatest pop band’s world-beater of an album – by assembling a cloyingly “Trans Tasman” motley crew of largely recent has-beens (Ladyhawke, Bernard Fanning) to transmogrify top tunes. These people hate Split Enz! These people hate these songs!
Chelsea Jade opens the new record by stripping Shark Attack of its paranoia, absurdity, hysteria, manic drive, and pop-song heart to deliver, well, some sort of skinny-dip of a torch song. Don’t take a song seriously that is not serious. What a fucking joke.
Shihad gets the baking paper and a jumbo Crayola out to trace around I Got You. It sounds like one of Marilyn Manson’s cover versions. It is not as problematic as a Marilyn Manson cover version, granted. It’s also probably not quite as good.
The Beths tear through What’s The Matter With You in two minutes and do exactly what you should do – they vibe to the instinct of the song and imbue their own flavour. It’s the highlight. And they clearly were drafted in by mistake because they clearly do not hate Split Enz. But The Beths already got all the good press in the world. So enough about this safe pair of hands.
It’s Ladyhawke killing I Wouldn’t Dream Of It dead that deserves a column inch. Just the one. Fuck this is unique – a version that manages to strip the original of its qualities and somehow present nothing new at all.
And whoever okayed Bernard Fanning taking the piano away from I Hope I Never and playing it as a guitar-led dirge with a plodding rhythm section is someone that shouldn’t be selling albums anyway. They should be selling shoes. Even Tim Finn singing Six Months In A Leaky Boat with the fucking Wiggles was more meaningful to Split Enz’ legacy than this.
There’s a particular cruelty around the fact that these greenhorns cannot get close to the emotional depth of a well-delivered Tim Finn lyric and vocal or circle in the orbit of a Neil Finn melody’s mercurial grace.
A better name for the album might have been Nobody Takes Me Seriously, that would have at least made sense. That actual song is covered by Lime Cordiale – and I’m still getting over that.
Stan Walker’s version of Poor Boy isn’t really for me either – but as with The Beths’ inclusion this is one of the smarter choices. I like the way Walker has a go at aping Tim’s inflection whilst doing his own thing. I just don’t like the musical backing he’s been given, or chosen – it’s horribly thin and fey and again misses out entirely on the point of the song’s musical build and the way it was crafted to work with both the lyric and the way the lyric was delivered.
True Colours closed with The Choral Sea, a bit of curious and wonderful prog-ish instrumental rock. I always thought it was a most wonderful impression of Genesis as a garage band. So of course that’s been killed with the kindness of a light and fluffy take by Pacific Heights. I’ve liked a lot of the Pacific Heights work over the years and then there’s been some I could care less about. I’m trying to care less about this soft, point-missing half-cocked Split Enz cover, let’s call it a remix actually since it appears to go in its own direction – when the roadmap was offered – and it misplaces any real hint of the song. The only accuracy that is consistent is that the original has a strange clout to it to cap a magical record and this is light and meaningless which is the perfect full stop (or question mark?) on an album of cover versions that should have been lit on fire and buried in a pit.
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