The Doors Swing Open
Australian Human Frailty album review.
Author: Christie Eliezer, Juke.
Date: 12 April 1986.
Original URL: N/A
Hunters & Collectors
Human Frailty (White Label)
“Say Goodbye” worked for Hunters and Collectors on a number of levels. Firstly, it broken them through into those AM-radio audiences that until now probably weren’t even aware of their existence of thought of them as humorless arty-farty types best left to gnaw on the Credibility Bone.
At the same time, though “Say Goodbye” was never mere pop fodder. Despite those awful Maori showband girlie backup vocal, it retained everything that was great about Hunters & Collectors – it made you smile at its irony and comicalness, it made you want to dance around the room, it tugged at your heart strings as Mark Seymour sniveled and groveled in front of his girlfriend (now ‘ex’) after he’d returned from a lengthy bout of touring to find her lonely and angry, and attempt to pacify her. Not too successfully at that, mind you.
The steady erosion and end of their relationship through 1985 is the theme of this album.
Nevertheless, you can hardly file this under “music to slash your wrists by”. Seymour is too full of irony and humour to let that happen.
Sound-wise, Human Frailty follows the single’s foray into the Top 40 with some great pop moments and a couple of wonderful songs that earn him a place as one of the better songwriters working within this country. At times though he attempts to over simplify the lyrics, making them sound almost banal when they’re meant to be more ambitious than that.
Over the last few years, we’ve seen Hunters & Collectors increasingly leave their initial industrial-funk to a more light/shade stance. This is where the doors swing open.
If you are what you eat, are you also what you listen to? In those angry, desperate, anxiety ridden moments as the love of his life slipped away, Seymour turned to late ’60s soul and early ’70s heavy rock – certainly some of the angriest music in existence – to provide him with the appropriate soundtrack for his hostility.
Flashes of that era emerges, the Fogarty guitar work on “Is there Anybody in There.” The lazy soul soothings and exhilarated brass of “Relief”…most of all there are some great club-dance tracks here, “Everybodys On Fire” moulding brass and pop melodies with intricate vocal harmonies, while “The Finger” allows Seymour to demonstrate his new found prowess on guitar. “99 Home Position” is another “comical” that throws images up fast and furious: of (sic) the listener misses one, there’s a stronger one following right behind.
The best songs, though, are the ballads. “Throw Your Arms Around Me” is close to magnificent, a top 10 cert if ever given the “right” airplay. No Seymour love song is without an axe to grind or a hatchet to bury. The emotions though are tortured and strangled. At times you genuinely feel for him.
“Stuck on You” is aided in its mournfulness with some sadly weeping violins:
I’ve been hearing round the town
You’ve been out and getting around
Whether it’s right or if it’s true
I’m stuck here, and I’m stuck on you
Very few rock writers give themselves completely to sentimentality. Despite his macho image, Seymour allows himself to cop the blame for the dissolution of the love affair, allows himself to beg and crawl. The melancholy is sometimes unbearable, particularly on the last track “This Morning” where a combination of violins, guitars and flute accentuate the desperation. You’ve drawn enough to almost let him use your shoulder to weep on.
Human Frailty is probably a bit too slick to work on all levels and the songwriting quality is inconsistent but it certainly will be the LP to launch Hunters & Collectors worldwide. Very few rock and roll writers these days allow you into his/her world to feel their music and become part of their spirit. Mark Seymour in Human Frailty is one of them.
– Christie Eliezer
Thankyou to Stephen for typing out this article for us all to enjoy!