[15 May 2011]
How about those Hoodoo Gurus! I liked the Sydney garage-poppers a lot back in the ‘80s, but like a lot of the Aussie bands that enjoyed their heyday back in those hazy days (Midnight Oil, Lime Spiders), safe money appeared to be on the quartet coasting on the nostalgia in the Land Down Under and not releasing too much in the way of new material. Then I ended up at their first NYC Hoodoo Gurus show in a decade or so. There was quite a buzz about the shows, coming on the heels of some barnstorming sets at SXSW. To almost everyone’s surprise (including the band, apparently) the place was a total madhouse. Suddenly, BB Kings felt like the old Ritz two decades previous. The Gurus played hit after hit to a mostly older, heavily Aussie ex-pat crowd that ate up every note like they had just been given the gift of hearing. Investigating after the fact, I came to find out that the Gurus were enjoying quite the resurgence back home in the Southern Hemisphere.
The ‘90s found Hoodoo Gurus in a fallow period, but after a brief hiatus and a Dukes of Stratosphear-esque turn as Persian Rugs, the Gurus hit “What’s My Scene” was reworked in the ‘oughts as “That’s My Team” for the Australian National Rugby Team. The song gave them a new lease on live shows that culminated in their co-headlining Australian festival Big Day Out with Metallica. Not too shabby for a bunch of old-timers from Sydney. Hoodoo Gurus was inducted into the Australian Recording Industry Association Hall of Fame in 2007, and their newly canonized selves undertook a wildly successful tour called Clash of the Titans with Radio Birdman and the Stems. Cue a spate of expanded reissues of their back catalog and a two-disc DVD retrospective complete with documentary called Be My Guru.
The resurgence in popularity garnered Hoodoo Gurus a new deal with Sony Australia in 2009 and prompted the Gurus to establish their own on-line label to release their new Purity of Essence internationally. The record finds the Hoodoo Gurus continuing to ply their trade in the type of Detroit-indebted quasi-psychedelic guitar rock that had many an ass attached to a bad haircut shaking in decades past. The opening track (and first single) “Crackin’ Up” rocks in the way “Out That Door” and a gang of others have in the past for the gents. You’d be hard-pressed to find one of their contemporaries bringing it at the same high standard. All the textbook Dave Faulkner traits are in evidence: driving riff, big hooky choruses, a fair amount of that timeless musical elixir called angst, and a guitar solo that rides the track into the sunset.
“Only in America” and “Why So Sad” continue in that vein, strutting their way off the speakers with the confident swagger of a band more than comfortable in their own skin. The band produced Purity of Essence with Mars Needs Guitars-producer Charles Fisher and drafted Ed Stasium back into the fold to add the studio fairy dust that he worked for such seminal Gurus works as Kinky. At 16 tracks, Purity of Essence might be guilty of being a tad over-long, but as a release from a band entering their 30th year, Hoodoo Gurus assert definitively that they are just as viable a rock entity in the 21st century as they were last millennium.