Rolling Stone Hunters and Collectors Review
Positive review of the first Hunters and Collectors album.
Author: Andrea Jones, Rolling Stone.
Date: 8th August 1982.
Original URL: N/A
Hunters & Collectors
Never before has an Australian band with no proven track record been petted, pampered and indulged as much as Hunters & Collectors have been with their self-titled debut. Produced by the band with Tony Cohen and Jim Barton as engineers, the album was six months in the making and arrives amid great curiosity and high expectation.
While it would be impossible for the band live up to all the hopes and the hype, they have nonetheless delivered a polished, if flawed, gem of an album which faithfully represents the band, its style and its ambitions, along with all its seductive appeal and its inbuilt problems. What we have here is the chance to decide whether the colossal hype and ballyhoo was worth it. This album answers unequivocally, yes.
From the outset, Hunters & Collectors has been a shrewd band.. It snatched an overseas trend in its budding infancy as the basis for its style and infused it with its own not inconsiderable talents and creativity. It unleashed its monster with immaculate timing on an audience craving something new and fresh and not as taxingly cerebral as the stultifying art push or as irrelevant as the stomping pub rock of the beer barns. With its tribal essence and trademark funk rhythms, it offered the perfect fusion of dance music and head music.
The group was soon the pivot of a community of musicians, artists and friends, and became known for its menagerie of invited guests on stage, its flexible membership and its creative associations outside the music: Melbourne now has a new Carlton push, only this time it’s to be found in Fitzroy/Clifton Hill and Elwood.
Someone said recently that Hunters and Collectors has refined the art of repetition. The ambiguity of this statement perfectly summarises the polarised response which \hunters & Collectors invite. The listener is either ground into boredom by its repetitive, brittle rhythms, or else drawn hypnotically into a vortex of meaning. For the music is brimming with sensual and emotive power. The lyrics, frequently obscure, are employed not for their cognitive value, but for their visually suggestive flavour. It’s real psycho-drama, as in “Screams Who?” – “My Ears are ringing and the eyes have it/ Lean your head to the wall … Inside the mortar scared smells, what smells?/ Lean your head to the wall …”
But there’s also an element of humor as well, such as the nursery rhyme mixture of horror and fantasy in ” Run Run, Run” – “Gently as you squeeze us/ Your Jellybeans will be shocked/ Squeeze this juice that’s in us/ And squeeze me till I drop/ General is a wise man/ General is the shock/ Flip flop ego we’ll go now ego flip flop.” Unfortunately, Mark Seymour’s steely hard vocals, flattened with the aid of effects, lacks resonance and drama, and he is content to render all the vocals with a flat menacing tone which is effective for a while but without variation comes dangerously close to tedium.
As it is, the style is as stiff as the rhythms are brittle, comprising layer upon layer of textures from the guitars and keyboards which are explored more for the evocative capabilities than their melodic ones. The forceful percussion of Greg Perano’s clanking gas tanks and other quirky effects, often emerge as a focus above the melody. The individual input of six players coheses around their steady rhythms.
But their evocation power is enormous. Never traditionally attractive, the images are often raw, primeval and hauntingly nightmarish. All of these qualities are captured in the cover artwork of skulls, primitive sculptures and ugly industrial skylines, and are eloquently portrayed in the arresting film clip for “Talking To A Stranger.”
The band transmits these images musically with varying success. Sometimes the songs are too long to sustain a mood or, as with “Junket,” a single idea is repeated for too long before it is developed. In this case, once it starts to evolve, it resolves in a dramatic, exhilarating climax which again, is repeated over and over-worked.
But overall, this album and EP, containing eight songs in all, is an articulate and solid statement of the band’s short history. Too many more helpings of its stodgy fun visions may be hard to take, and on a fashion level, the stolid rhythms have been superseded by a much friskier, frothy funk style. The challenge for Hunters & Collectors is to see where it goes to from here.
Thankyou to Tammy for typing out this article for us all to enjoy!