Monday, March 28, 2005

Hunters And Collectors

Hunters And Collectors had a sound that was gritty, rocky, and uniquely Australian. The collective began life in 1978 as a bit of a drunken lark for a group of Melbourne University students. Initially named the Schnortts, and renamed in 1979 to The Jetsonnes, who released a track called "News-paper" which was a gig giveaway 7" single, both of these bands consisted of what was to become the core of Hunters and Collectors.

Hunters and Collectors made their live debut on the 15th of May 1981 at the Seaview Ballroom in Melbourne, having expanded into an eleven man ensemble with a massive horn section, named the “Horns Of Contempt”, itself comprising of six members. At this stage the band were urban-tribal-industrial white punks on funk and were renowned for their chaotic, intense live performances, often inviting audience members on stage and providing them with percussive instruments to add to the mayhem and cacophony. Hunters and Collectors quickly gained a reputation as the band to see and were signed up by Mushroom Records White label, which they remained with for their entire existence.

Their first release in 1981, the "World Of Stone" E.P. gave H&C an early taste of success, spending eight weeks in the Australian top 100, peaking at number 50. This release was soon followed up by their debut, self titled album (Hunters & Collectors - 1982) which reached #14 in the Australian album charts and contained two classic tracks – “Talking To A Stranger” and “Run, Run, Run”. The video clip for "Talking To A Stranger" is also regarded as a classic and was directed by Richard Lowenstein.

The band traveled to the UK and Europe and like many other Australian bands making the same move at that time they were received poorly and were considered out of place, both musically and for their (lack of) “fashion-sense”. Whilst there they recorded their second album “The Firemen’s Curse” which, though poorly received, is musically the link between the funk jams of their early career and their heavily rhythmic middle period.

After returning to Australia, and now consisting of 8 members, Hunters and Collectors recorded their archetypical “Jaws Of Life” (1984) album. The bass and drums started taking prominence and vocalist Mark Seymour’s lyrics had begun leaning towards a decidedly Australian flavor. For my money these early Hunters and Collectors gigs (before their move into commercial radio friendly guitar/pop territory) were among the best and most consistently entertaining live gigs by any Australian band and H&C regularly traveled the entire country with a hectic touring schedule. The best snapshot of this seminal band at the creative peak of their extraordinary career can be seen and heard on their live album/concert film release “The Way To Go Out”, which was also directed by Richard Lowenstein.

But chart success still eluded them, even following the release of their signature anthem “Throw Your Arms Around Me”, which only reached #48 in the charts. With their next studio album “Human Frailty” (1986) the band started the progression towards an ever more commercial-friendly sound and for me this was the beginning of the end, although the album does contain the classic live track “Say Goodbye”. Imagine, if you will, a pub full of drunken Australian blokes passionately screaming/singing “you don’t make me feel like I'm a woman anymore” – a wonderful, perverse moment.

H&C toured the USA and continued their constant “grind and travel” across Australia. They went on to experience reasonable chart success and were named Australian Band of the Year in Rolling Stone in 1990. But after 20 years, 10+ studio album releases, numerous E.P.’s and singles and a multitude of live and collected albums, the band finally called it a day in March, 1998.

Mark Seymour has since forged a solo career for himself, releasing 4 albums and continuing to tour.

Hunters And Collectors - Talking To A Stranger

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