Hoodoo Gurus

Purity of Essence

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A look into the booklet that accompanies the Hoodoo Gurus' 2010 album Purity of Essence makes it clear that nearly three decades after they formed, time is starting to catch up with the band -- Dave Faulkner's cranial hair is just a memory and he looks as if he should be working at a hardware store, while Brad Shepherd, bearded and sipping a cup of coffee, could pass for a college literature professor. (Another, darker sign of the Hoodoo's age isn't mentioned in the notes -- Shepherd was diagnosed with cancer in 2009, though he's thankfully made a full recovery.) But if the Hoodoo Gurus are not as young as they once were, you wouldn't know it to listen to them; Purity of Essence is lean, tight, and energetic rock & roll, stylistically hitting a middle ground between the rollicking garage-influenced sound of Mars Needs Guitars and the harder and faster approach of Mach Schau. Purity of Essence finds Faulkner taking matters just a bit more seriously in his songwriting -- the acknowledgment of one man's failings on "Ashamed of Me," the pointless busted friendship of "Over Nothing," and the pondering of mortality in "The Stars Look Down" are heavy stuff from a band that used to offer us songs like "I Was a Kamikaze Pilot," but even at its most philosophical, this music still has its feet planted on the ground, and Shepherd's guitars, Rich Grossman's bass, and Mark Kingsmill's drums keep the tunes swaggering in forward motion. And "1968," "Only in America," and "I Hope You're Happy" are classic Hoodoo Gurus with their snarky wit, pop hooks, and palpable joy in the power of this music; the key is not that they sound "just like the old days," but that they still clearly love rock & roll and play it with the smarts of a mature band but the rave-up enthusiasm of a gang of snotty upstarts. In short, 27 years after Stoneage Romeos, the Hoodoo Gurus are not only still around, alive, and kicking, they still know how to make a great record, and Purity of Essence is the proof.

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