The Swingers – Counting The Beat

The Swingers - Counting The BeatIf this album is a good example of anything, it’s a good example of how not to pick the lead track of an album. Counting The Beat is an interesting 1981 set by The Swingers, a band formed by former Split Enz guitarist/vocalist Phil Judd and featuring future Midnight Oil bassist Bones Hillman and guitarist Michael Den Elzen (who later sat in as a session player on Tim Finn’s fourth solo album). The problem with Counting The Beat, however, is wading through the first two tracks before getting to the album’s real meat.

The Swingers sound a lot like Judd’s later band Schnell Fenster, with Judd’s trademark wavering, almost-shouting vocal at the forefront of the group’s sound. Some of the songs here are worth a listen – “Lovesick”, “True Or False”, and “Ayatollah” among them – but something about the first two tracks on the CD (“Practical Joker” and “One Track Mind”) consistently hits me as being unappealing. Others’ mileage may vary, and whether or not you can stomach much of Judd’s vocal style will probably a major factor in whether you like those tracks or, for that matter, the entire album.

Split Enz fans wondering if The Swingers sound anything like that band may or may not find some similarities. Counting The Beat was produced by David Tickle, who helped the Enz cement their sound in the 2 out of 4early ’80s with True Colours, and here it sounds like he’s trying to split the difference between the Enz and the Clash. Sometimes it works…and sometimes it doesn’t.

Overall, a cautious recommendation; it helps if you’ve heard some early Split Enz and perhaps the more melodically inclined (and, frankly, better produced) Schnell Fenster first.

Order this CD

  1. Practical Joker (3:18)
  2. One Track Mind (3:46)
  3. Lovesick (3:47)
  4. True Or False (4:13)
  5. More (3:55)
  6. Counting The Beat (3:04)
  7. It Ain’t What You Dance It’s The Way You Dance It (3:02)
  8. Ayatollah (3:39)
  9. Five O’Clock Shadow (3:43)
  10. Funny Feeling (3:46)
  11. Distortion (3:52)
  12. Hit The Beach (4:01)
  13. One Good Reason (2:50)
  14. The Flak (3:41)

Released by: Mushroom
Release date: 1981
Total running time: 50:37

Schnell Fenster – The Sound Of Trees

Schnell Fenster - The Sound Of TreesThis little-known and distinctly 80’s entity consisted of Split Enz alumni Phil Judd, Noel Crombie, and Nigel Griggs (more or less the half of the band who didn’t go on to become regular members of Crowded House) along with Michael den Elzen, who later played guitar on at least one of ex-Enzer Tim Finn’s solo albums. At the same time that Crowded House was treading softer ground with Temple Of Low Men, these other former Enz members were trying to carve out a somewhat more quirky and dance-oriented niche for themselves, not unlike the territory Tim Finn had explored with his very pop-oriented early solo projects. But where Tim was upbeat, his former Enz cohorts were downright weird at times. Not that this is bad – at various times, Thomas Dolby and Howard Jones were also considered weird. Put simply, Schnell Fenster hauled the new-wave pop style out of the early 80’s, dragging it kicking and screaming (the style, not the band themselves) into the latter half of the decade, which was dominated by mechanical quasi-R&B dance grooves and rap. Sometimes, as with the catchy “Skin The Cat”, there’s even a hint of cool swing to the proceedings, and numerous other numbers play the new-wave game to the hilt, including “Whisper”, “Run-a-Mile” and “Never Stop”. I’ve found that there’s nothing on this album not to like, 3 out of 4but if you have never heard of Schnell Fenster, it’s because this is an example of a band and an album out of time. It could’ve gone over huge only four or five years earlier, but its somewhat dated sound, along with Phil Judd’s penchant for whimsy which characterized his reign in the early days of Split Enz, kept it from gaining anything more than cult recognition among Enz fans.

Order this CD

  1. Whisper (3:45)
  2. Love-Hate Relationship (3:59)
  3. Sleeping Mountain (3:44)
  4. That’s Impossible (3:26)
  5. This Illusion (3:42)
  6. Lamplight (3:35)
  7. The Sound of Trees (4:46)
  8. White Flag (3:36)
  9. Long Way Away (3:20)
  10. Skin the Cat (3:05)
  11. Run-a-Mile (3:02)
  12. Never Stop (4:12)

Released by: Atlantic
Release date: 1988
Total running time: 44:56