In 1990 Hunters & Collectors tried to make a splash in the American market with a retooling of their What’s a Few Men album.. Unfortunately, Fate (as the American version was titled) went largely unnoticed, much to the detriment of the American public.
The opening track, Back of the Breadline, features H&C’s trademark horns, prominent rhythm section, and Mark Seymour’s distinct vocals. The song is catchy and fun and provides a gentle, although not necessarily representative introduction to the band and their style.
There are a few standout tracks-- Around the Flame, Wishing Well, Breakneck Road, and So Long Ago. But even so, there are no truly “weak” songs on the album. Breakneck Road is probably the best representation of Hunters & Collectors style on the entire album.
Perhaps the best song on the album is What’s a Few Men. The song title is taken from a passage in Albert Facey’s autobiography, A Fortunate Life. It relates the tale of a British officer complaining of the smell of rotting dead bodies on the battlefield at Gallipoli in World War I. When told that cleaning up the corpses would result in even more Aussies getting mowed down by the Ottomans, the English colonel’s response, “What’s a few men?” While it’s certainly not traditional subject matter for a rock song, it’s that originality which makes the song so compelling. Seymour’s tone is rather dour and melancholy and few other singers could pull off singing such a unique song.
While the album is certainly one of their best, it’s unfortunately, not necessarily the best introduction to the band or their music. Hunters & Collectors are a band which tend to grow on their listeners with repeated listens and this album is one which needs multiple listens to get into. I’d recommend starting with 1993’s Cut or perhaps 1986’s Human Frailty before giving Fate/What’s a Few Men its due.