So far, the Hoodoo Gurus have had little exposure in America. But in Australia, they're icons. The Gurus' songs are regularly on the national Top 10 hit list, and they've got gold and platinum albums. They cranked up an excellent show at a jam-packed Zephyr Club Thursday night.
The Gurus' performance, taken mostly from the newly released album, "Crank," gave credibility to their assertion that "Australian bands are more robust." Sharp, tight, high-strung but grunge-free, their music omits guitar grinding and noise for noise's sake. It's fiercely cheery, punctuated and precise. Most of the songs are fast and poundy, insistent, persistent, in-your-face rock tunes.The Hoodoo Gurus started in 1981 in Sydney, Australia. "There were two kinds of bands in those days, artistic experimental twiddly-bonk, with homemade synthesizers, or iron-pumping Detroit stuff," said lead singer Dave Faulkner. "We were different."
Faulkner was studying architecture, "Because you get told you can't just draw," but in spite of the "cut and dried" architecture classes, he kept up band performances on the weekends, and sang in the university choir. When he realized he couldn't "draw cheap boxes like the ones down the street, except in green and with half the heating bill," he quit school and started working at a bank to save up money for band equipment. "But you know when you hate your job you spend all your paycheck to make up for the fact, and you can't save anything, so I borrowed from my brother."
The Gurus were astonished to see their first single succeed. They were amazed when they made a whole album. Now on their sixth album, standing as a huge success even after 13 years, they say "it's still all gravy."
It was gravy to the concertgoers too. The opening song was a new one, "Hypocrite Blues." Mid-song the band broke into a speedy ska-style bridge, with the drummer pounding out the beat so energetically it seemed as if he were in the throes of anger. The band took song requests and gave commands to the crowd to memorize the words of the songs "by tomorrow."
"You Open My Eyes" slowed the atmosphere with music written and sung by shy Brad Shepherd, who just recently began to play his songs. It's a tune that sticks to the roof of your brain, a very simple beach love song that says, "I don't know if I should laugh or cry," made lovely with vocal harmonizing and the emotion in the singer's voice.
Later on, Faulkner good-naturedly cursed at the crowd. "People are getting their legs broken up here in front. No slam dancing. Do it up and down like a pogo," he said. From then on, the audience pogoed, as happily packed as a mad swarm of dancing sardines.