[Buzz Bands’ Southern Hemisphere correspondent checks in with a brief history of a longtime favorite, in advance of the quartet’s rare L.A. appearance this weekend:]
A week prior to leaving for a tour of Brazil, the Hoodoo Gurus issued a press release announcing that 1997 would be their last year together as a band. There were no reasons for calling it a day other than “it just feels like the right time to do so.” The Gurus closed that year with a mammoth 52-date tour of Australia, appropriately titled “Spit the Dummy,” to thank the fans that had followed them through a 15-year career. It had been quite a trip.
The Sydneysiders initial ambitious “three guitars plus drums” lineup had shape-shifted and acquired its first bass player at pretty much the same time as their debut single “Leilani” hit the stores way back in 1982. A burgeoning interest in American popular culture – monster movies, sitcoms, surfing, junk food – marked them down as something special, and the band knocked out confident, sparkling, radio-friendly records like “Mars Needs Guitars” (1985) and “Blow Your Cool!” (two years later) with diffident ease.
With a little help from friends like the Bangles, and a prodigious amount of hard gigging through the mid to late ’80s, the Gurus became American college radio darlings. Their brash brand of garage rock and power pop was big fun on a night out, but mainstream success was elusive. After all, albums chock full of confident, witty, hook-laden tunes and a tremendous work ethic only take you so far, right? Too colorful to be indie, far too much fun to be grunge. The Gurus just didn’t fit any convenient musical pigeonhole at a time when a band almost had to have a label to be universally accepted.
A five-year hiatus followed “Spit the Dummy” until the band formed to re-record what may be their finest moment, “What’s My Scene,” as the Australian National Rugby League theme – and the Gurus were off and running again.
It’s been six years since their “debut comeback” record “Mach Schau,” but this year brought “Purity of Essence,” with Ed Stasium (Ramones, Talking Heads, Smithereens) producing. The songs poured forth at a jam session in a Sydney rehearsal studio earlier this year. Head guru Dave Faulkner recalls a moment when the band realized both the quantity and quality of material was perhaps too much for one disc but as he says, the decision was obvious – “Dammit, let’s just put ’em all on (the CD). The good news is that there is such a diversity of styles – from punk Ã la the Ramones to dare-I-say pretty songs and some guilty pleasures – that it doesn’t get repetitive.” It was ever thus.
So this weekend, don your most garish Hawaiian shirt, rip the cap off a stubby of VB and raise it in salute to an enduring Australian legend. Play loud.
||| Download: “Crackin’ Up”
||| Live: The Hoodoo Gurus play the Viper Room on Sunday.