RAM Human Frailty Review
Positive Australian review of the Human Frailty album.
Author: Phil Stafford, RAM.
Date: ~April 1986.
Original URL: N/A.
‘Well, Reagan finally cracked/ And the Yankees went to war
We peeled away the bandages/And looked into the sore
Is there anybody in there?’
(Is There Anybody In There? – Mark Seymour)
Did he know something we didn’t? Seems Mark Seymour foreshadowed immediate history when he penned those lines, what must have been months (or years?) ago. Not that it wasn’t on the cards – just a case of uncanny timing.
But timing’s what Hunters & Collectors know most about. From the post-industrial clank of their rhythms to the open-heart throb of Seymour’s surgically probing lyrics, Hunters define a time of their own – and that time appears to have come with Human Frailty, their fourth album in as many years together. Though it retains the band’s rough-hewn charisma – Seymour’s naked, brittle guitar and quavering moan, those far-off, panoramic horns, brutally accurate bass and drums – Frailty aches with the honesty, raw emotion and dead uncertainty of human existence….right now.
There’s something gauche about Hunters & Collectors, which only reinforces their humanity. It’s in songs like Throw Your Arms Around Me, that most intimate of ballads. Re-recorded for this album, it’s been cleaned up and given the 24-track treatment. Live, it’s almost embarrassing candour connects in a physical sense, invites us to share Seymour’s fragile plea for affection. Prettified in the studio, the song comes on like a painted whore – the mystery is lost, the mood is tainted. Yet it sounds so much better, and that’s the double edge.
It’s in songs like Say Goodbye, a document of guilt, neglect, honest regret and recrimination. Yet it’s all cushioned in the guise of a pub-rock boogie onslaught, with a fists-in-the-air chorus and a kick-up-the-arse rhythm. Boys’ music for a girl’s revenge: take me for granted and I’ll leave you for good.
Human Frailty is hard rock for soft hearts, hot coals for the jaded soul. It continues Hunters’ fascination with the body corporal, dripping fluids, breathing fire and jarring the brain and backbone. It kicks in the TV (Is There Anybody In There?) and runs for cover from a disintegrating world – only to baulk at the mental prison of solitude and loneliness (Throw Your Arms…., The Finger, Stuck On You). It’s about lust and jealousy (Everything’s On Fire), anguish and entrapment (Relief) or love and submission (Dog). It whoops with elation, coos like a dove and screams in frustrated agony. It hurts, it feels so good. It thinks, it feels so bad.
Yet it can make you laugh, even on the edge of fear. ‘I got the box between my hands – I shook it all around/I got Judgement Day on longform/But there wasn’t any sound’, bellows Seymour on Is There Anybody In There? It’s his video apocalypse, and you shouldn’t laugh too loudly. Nor should you take a line like ‘unbutton the butcher in your heart’ with anything less than a bucket of salt – there’s a blade glinting just below the surface. Seymour even manages to portray the washing up as a dangerous pursuit: ‘down there beneath the dishes/here the knives lie crossed and waiting’ (Relief).
Gloves won’t save you now.
It’s life and it’s here in all its hues: angry purple, jealous green, cringing yellow, the reds an blues of joyous days and haunted nights. Hunters spin the colour wheel of human existence, and know just where to stop it. That’s timing.
Thanks to Stephen for typing this one out for us all to enjoy.