Hoodoo Gurus: Purity of Essence


May 24, 2010 at 2:06 pm

For well over a quarter of a century, Hoodoo Gurus have been one of Australia’s most revered Rock bands, playing a visceral mix of Power Pop, Garage and Surf Rock and building a rabid home audience that propelled them into the rarified superstar stratosphere down under. By the same token, the Gurus haven’t gotten quite the same love here in the States beyond an equally rabid but considerably smaller cult fan base; the band’s entire catalog was reissued in Australia to much fanfare and acclaim, while only the Gurus’ first album, 1983’s Stoneage Romeo, was given a physical release in the U.S., with the remainder of the catalog available only as digital downloads.

But let’s not push Hoodoo Gurus’ cult status in the States into the forefront here. Americans have perfected the art of ignoring amazingly talented musicians, both domestic and imported (Tommy Keene, Jules Shear, Bill Nelson and hundreds of others should be living in mansions surrounded by hedge animals, but that’s another story), so one more is hardly newsworthy. The headline here is that Hoodoo Gurus are nearly 30 years into a career that has found them existing at both ends of the success spectrum and they’ve never sounded as fresh, relevant and energized as they do on their ninth studio album, Purity of Essence.

Ripping through a set that's as energetic, gritty and fun as anything by bands half their age and experience, the Gurus peel off one glorious track after another in a perfect confluence of visceral Garage Rock, infectious Power Pop, muscular Psychedelia and blazing Surf Rock, keeping the pace across a 16-song set and for just over an hour. Take “Burnt Orange,” for example; here’s a song that’s hot enough to raise blisters, a horn-fueled rampage that sounds like the Stones as envisioned by a Punk/Pop band spiked on a heart needle full of gorilla adrenaline and featuring a couple of Dave Faulkner’s most deliriously unhinged solos in a single song. They could have built an album of B-sides and crappy demos around this one song and it would have been a triumph.

And yet, there’s more; the Clash-like Pop verve of “A Few Home Truths,” the Garage Soul revivalism of “Only in America,” the insistent ’60s thump of “Let Me In,” the Kinks-at-the-beach swing of “Why So Sad?,” the ’70s Power Pop anthemics of “Crackin’ Up.” There isn’t a duff track in the bunch, which would be a bold accomplishment for a band working with the stupid energy of youth; it’s unheard of from a group of geezers whose first single came out less than a year after MTV’s launch.

The Hoodoo Gurus have always been the realest of real things, and Purity of Essence swaggers and shakes and stomps with ironclad evidence of their continuing guilt in that regard.