I am always going on about Australian band HUNTERS and COLLECTORS to people, and they do not always get me.
Often, they are fellow Aussies who only became familiar with the band in the 90s, and they either know for their more commercial stuff, or they dismiss them for being too commercial. (It’s true, they became very pop-rock in the 90s, and even had a particular single that became very popular with Australian Rules TV broadcasters.)
Or, they are from outside Australia and haven’t necessary heard them, or, don’t realise how good they were.
So, I am here to solemnly swear and attest that circa 1986, this band were the best live band in Australia, and maybe one of the best anywhere. During that long and dubious decade where fads and synths and haircuts ruled, these guys chose to do pub rock, blues guitar and horn driven, melodic and percussive, rhythmic and funky, arty and loud, angry and funny and dangerously weird, and all fronted by Mr Mark Seymour, one of the best singer-shouters my country has yet produced.
The lyrics were Australian, and intriguing – holding down a D, fanging home to your girlfriend, girls with fingers like green ginger roots, all trucks and beers and memories spread out on the road – and this meant a lot to me, and it still does. So many “Australian” song-writers are basically just generic American-style country artists who bung in the name of an Australian town every so often, and they don’t actually sound like suburban Aussies at all. But everything about this music smelled of Footscray, the Hume Highway, and Cartlon Draught. Somehow they just got it.
I saw the band four or five times at the ANU Union Refectory or the upstairs section at the Uni Bar in Canberra, and once at the Trade Union club, and every time, they totally blew my face off. I have never seen a tighter band which somehow had such a loose, jamming energy. They could build tension like no other band I have ever seen (except maybe the Breeders and that could have been a fluke).
Don’t believe me? Well, first off all, ignore pretty much everything past Human Frailty (1986), which is their last fine studio record. There are other people who will buy their later work, so you and me can concentrate on buying the older stuff.
You should start with this record, The Jaws of Life, from 1984. The modern re-release includes the entire Payload EP, from 1982, Trust me, this is one of the finest Australian rock albums ever made. If Amazon are out of stock, keep trying, anywhere you can.
Here’s some sample tracks to pique your interest.
TOWTRUCK (from the Towtruck EP, 1982)
I COULDN’T GIVE IT T YOU (from the Jaws of Life LP, 1984)