Thursday, January 05, 2006

Hunters & Collectors - Fate/What's a Few Men (1990)

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.


bill said...

What is it with Aussie music? It just has not translated well to American ears.

LRB were a bit of a joke here in Oz but were huge in the US. But this band had street cred here and bombed in the States.

Has Aussie music evolved too much and is now a separate entity or is it poor marketing?

Robert Love said...

Have to say that Baby Animals are a great Australian band that never made an impact here in Europe...and I never understood why. Their debut is one of the best records I own and then their most recent Tjis Is Not The End blew me away some 20+ years later. But I had to buy it in Oz and ship to Ireland. Just bought this album today courtesy of a five second spin in the record store and I think it'll be a good discovery! Also bought The Angela 'Never So Live' but I have a few of their records so I know they're good!
Robbie (Dublin, Ireland)