‘True Colours – New Colours’: Split Enz tribute album
By Ian Duggan
True Colours was released in 1980 and represented the band’s first major commercial success, reaching #1 in Australia and New Zealand, #10 in Canada, #38 in the UK and #40 in the USA, particularly on the back of the Neil Finn penned single, ‘I Got You’. This album led to a change in their fanbase – some older fans continued to support the band in its new overtly poppy direction, while others were lost – though the new approach clearly attracted a slew of new followers. Personally, I find the original True Colours album to be patchy; it does have some superb pop songs, in particular the singles ‘I Hope I Never’ and ‘Poor Boy’. Nevertheless, it also features ‘I Got You’, their massive hit, which for me has not aged well. Further, songs like ‘What's the Matter with You’, ‘I Wouldn't Dream of It’, ‘Missing Person’ and ‘How Can I Resist Her’ have always felt like fillers, making up the numbers, and also a bit cringey. Nevertheless, there were some pleasant surprises on the original album, particularly ‘The Choral Sea’ - an instrumental written by the whole band, which provided a strong finish to the LP.
Starting with the positives, however, is that all the artists attempted to make the songs their own, rather than simply emulating the originals. This is true for the opening track, ‘Shark Attack’, covered by Chelsea Jade. For me, this dream-pop version is one of the highlights of the album – it isn’t frenetic like the original, or as the lyrical content might suggest it should be. Some might see this as a down point, but I disagree; I want a different interpretation, and this one is successful in giving it to me. The Beth’s sped-up, poppy take on ‘What's The Matter With You’ is pretty good also, for the most part, with Elizabeth Stokes’ vocal delivery more appealing to me than Tim Finn’s on this song.
Tribute albums are always patchy, and this one is no exception. Overall, this one just doesn’t really work for me. Some of this is obviously the result of uninspired song interpretation, which is unfortunate, but the quality of some of the source material here was probably never going to make this a winner.