Review Summary: Gurus still don't know their scene as they fumble the footy on disappointing ninth album.
The hair might not be as long and the charts may no longer be overwhelmed by their presence, but there's little specific difference between the Hoodoo Gurus that rose to stardom through the eighties and the Hoodoo Gurus of today. Purity of Essence
- the band's second album since reforming and ninth overall - really only solidifies everything that was previously established about the Gurus even further. Of course, this has both its good and bad points. The singles (both official and obvious choices) are outstanding in their crisp production and vital energy, ranking amongst some of the finest works of the band's career. The problem, however, lies in that very fact: the Gurus, for the most part, are a singles band; and Purity of Essence
is very quick in overstaying its welcome with a bloated tracklisting and drab moments that choke on the highlights' dust.
One of the reasons that Purity
is such a difficult record to listen to all the way through is the fact that it's an incredibly top-heavy release - so much so that you might struggle for awhile to get past the opening track. Here's what you need to know: it's called "Crackin' Up" and it rocks harder than anything from the last three Gurus albums. It's one of those muscular pop-rock numbers that not only transcends - it could have easily been on any of the band's hit records - but also demonstrates how well these four musicians know one another. As Brad Shepherd storms out of the gate with a drilling, high-octane riff, vocalist Dave Faulkner lays down powerful melody and a three-word chorus that deserves nothing less than to light up radios nationwide. The rhythm section - bassist Richard Grossman and drummer Mark Kingsmill - are also solid to the point of immovability; powering through the song's straightforward structure in workman-like fashion. It might just be another day on the job, but in the case of "Crackin' Up", business hasn't been this good in years - possibly decades.
With such a fantastic opener, it's difficult for the remaining tracks to live up to the precedent that the song sets. Some certainly come close, though - only being able to come with the goods once every fifteen songs would just be depressing. "Burnt Orange" and "1968" are unhinged up-tempo rock & roll, recalling the Stooges with swinging rhythm, jangly guitar and a wailing horn section in "Burnt Orange"'s case. The punchy "You've Got Another Thing Coming", meanwhile, sees lead guitarist Shepherd take the mic and deliver on one of the most energetic and fufilling songs on the record - impressive, given it's the second shortest out of the lot. It's moments like these that serve as evidence to the fact that the Gurus still know their way around some solid tracks - they're a cohesive unit as a band, and it certainly shows throughout the album.
Unfortunately, all it takes is an unfortunate string of duds to upset the entire experience of the album. The braindead head-nod groove of "Only In America" might boast a catchy chorus and some great backing vocals, but it's far too long and is a lyrical shipwreck of reading ridiculous headlines from US news. Who honestly thought this would be a clever idea? Dudes, it's 2010. It's been done. Matter of fact, so have the dreary ballads ("Over Nothing", "Are You Sleeping?") with their thin harmonies and dispassionate delivery; not to mention the sub-standard rockers ("I Hope You're Happy" a prime example) that unnecessarily pad out what could have been a very sharp rock record at half its actual length.
Rather than substantiate the relevance of the Gurus at this stage of their career, Purity of Essence
will end up little more than a Father's Day gift for the kind of dad who hasn't bought a new album since Black Ice
came out. It's a shame, given the band are both still an entertaining live prospect and have created a legacy for themselves on the basis of some classic pop. Lightning strikes only once here - the overwhelming majority of Purity
is just drizzle.