Songs Are Like Soaps

Brief Canadian Human Frailty interview with Mark Seymour exploring emotions in daytime TV and music.

Author: Tom Harrison, Vancouver Province

Date: 29 October 1986.

Original URL: N/A.


Article Text

“The things that interest me are soap opera an what life is actually like. People will actually watch something like Days of Our Lives, which is plagued with every human tragedy, yet when they turn on the radio they want something to be up and happy. I just won’t accept that. I’m not prepared to make music solely for that market – pleasant little ditties about good-looking girls.”

From the air-conditioned shelter of a hotel room which protects him from smog-bound L.A., Mark Seymour of Hunters and Collectors has spoken. The Australian band, which is at Casey’s tonight and Club Soda tomorrow, has come to North America to bring to life the songs from its current LP, Human Frailty.

Human Frailty is Hunters and Collectors most straightforward, tuneful album – all the better with which to achieve Seymour’s aim of depicting life in its most commonplace, mundane details. Seymour regrets having used the word prosaic to describe the songs on Human Frailty, especially since Say Goodbye, Is There Anybody Out There, Throw Your Arms Around Me or any other track on the LP is anything but lacking in imagination.

Say Goodbye is about female supremacy while Is There Anybody Out There (sample lyric: “Well, Reagan finally cracked and the Yankees went to war; we peeled away the bandages and looking into the sore.”) is about having TV as your only connection to the world outside. The thumping drive of the Hunters and Collectors rhythm section and sonorous, occasionally funereal horns collaborate to make Human Frailty both aggressive and stately. It is an album dramatically different from the twisted bluesiness and Captain Beefheart shuffle of its predecessors.

“Most of our albums reflect our lifestyle, they are about is, the band as a bunch of men in a microcosm,” Seymour says, explaining that Human Frailty and the preceding Jaws of Life capture the band in a state of flux. “We take traditional elements that most people are familiar with and try to put them into a different context, juxtapose them in different ways.

“Human Frailty is also a self-mocking album, particularly on the subject of male-female relationships. Like, Say Goodbye is told from a woman’s point of view but sung in the manner of a man. It’s trying to de-mystify the myth of the woman as the weaker of the sexes.

“On the LP, I was writing in cliches. Like soap opera is written in cliches but underneath there is real sentiment. I wanted to present everyday things that are really banal but present them in a new way and in the most unflowery language possible.”