To me Hunters & Collectors always brings back the image of their first video - for Talking to a Stranger. Directed by Richard Lowenstein, who went on to direct clips for INXS and U2, as well as making films, it's not just the music that makes it riveting. The image of a nose-bound Mark Seymour being apparently doused with water while singing is one I've never forgotten.
The other thing that makes Hunters what they are is that they're unmistakably a Melbourne band, because they had a horn section. I can't tell you how many bands I'd be able to identify instantly and Melburnians in the 80s, just because of that. Not that you get bands with horn sections these days.
I've seen Hunters a few times, and my favourite moment is always when they sing Say Goodbye. Because there's really nothing like seeing a whole group of drunken Aussie men singing "You don't make me feel like I'm a woman anymore" - it's surreal.
I actually missed almost all of the most beautiful Hunters moment in my life. You see, I hung around with a group of people in high school - there were just shy of 20 of us - and we get together every five years to celebrate the decade and half-decade birthdays. In 1997 there was a party at a club, with a covers band. And a whole bunch of guys in the group got up on stage and sang Throw Your Arms Around Me. We've always been a musical lot. But I missed almost all of it because I'd been in the Ladies room chatting to a girlfriend (as you do) and couldn't ask for an encore. So, maybe in 2012 I'll ask them for a repeat performance.
VERDICT: TURN IT UP
I remember seeing Hunters & Collectors play way back in the early 80s when I was living in Melbourne. I think it was at the Chevron Hotel, a now-defunct venue, but don't quote on this fact. And don't ask me if I can remember what songs they played, because the only memory I have of the gig is standing up the back watching the band, who were all dressed in checked shirts of some description. I can't recall if I saw them live again, except at a festival of some sort in the mid 90s. I wish I had, though, because they were renowned for their live shows.
Right from the get-go, the Hunters were admirably a band. While there was no mistaking lead vocalist/guitarist Mark Seymour's delivery, it was never his or any single member's band. I remember wishing I could be in such a group, a cadre of musical brothers all working to produce something new, fresh and exciting. Taking cues from Krautrock, their first releases were tight, sculptured rhythms accompanied by abrasive guitar and a blaring horn section. They didn't do soft or gentle, at least not at first. Listening to their early recordings, songs like 42 Wheels or The Slab, it feels like it was always all or nothing.
I remember hearing the thumping bass of Talking To A Stranger, one of their first singles and wondering where the bloody hell that sound came from. I heard a similar sound repeated many times by different bands over the years, but none with quite the same impact as the this track. This formula would be repeated, in various ways, over their next few albums, with Seymour not so much singing as abusing the microphone.
However, while they had a well-established fan base with their first three albums, it wasn't until their fourth, Human Frailty, that the band finally had a hit record, led with a blistering diatribe to failed love of Say Goodbye (just hearing Seymour singing you don't make me feel like a woman anymore was worth the price of the album). It kind of marked a departure from their noise-art rock to more traditional arrangements, but still with the undeniable passion and urgency the band exuded.
Then there is Throw Your Arms Around Me. This is a true Australian classic, a song covered over the years by various Australian and international artists. And drunk, homesick Aussies everywhere. Seymour admits it was the first song he wrote that wasn't angry. The band recorded and released a number of versions over their time together, never quite settling on a single one. The version on Collected Works, while suitably tender and probably the best known version, is not my favourite. Check mine out here.
And we may never meet again
So shed your skin and let's get started
And you will throw your arms around me
VERDICT: TURN IT UP
For more information go to http://www.humanfrailty.com.au/index2.htm
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