Hoodoo Gurus, Mars Needs Guitars! (1985)

Hoodoo Gurus, 'Mars Needs Guitars!' (1985)The Australian quartet Hoodoo Gurus formed in 1981 and three years later produced a terrific first LP, Stoneage Romeos, that introduced its throwback power pop to an international audience. The 1985 follow-up Mars Needs Guitars! builds on that debut with a stirring sequence of studied garage rock.

The opener “Bittersweet” begins with an arresting fade-in of a driving rhythm guitar over which lead vocalist David Faulkner intones the first of many memorable lines and melodies. The song crashes into its major-chord verse-and-chorus, with Faulkner’s singing becoming increasingly urgent as the song progresses. The last go-round then slides everything up a full step (à la “Penny Lane” or “Surrender”) in a kind of ecstatic release before the fade-out.

“Poison Pen” follows, more pulsating pop with a smartly-deployed harmonica adding some countrified swagger. Here and elsewhere, Faulker’s lyrics are consistently clever and thought-provoking. “Everyone enjoys sharing a rumor / But when it’s aimed at you it loses its humor,” he complains in a kind of rejoinder to a hurtfully public kiss-off. The chorus is then positively literary: “Ink is black, as black as night, / Black as thoughts that shun the light. / Truth will out and maybe then / You’ll put down that poison pen.” Not your run-of-the-mill break-up song, this.

Less unique though still enjoyable, “In the Wild” provides opportunity for Faulkner and lead guitarist Brad Shepherd to trade licks over another satisfying, up-tempo rocker. Things slow down for the sweet “Death Defying,” which could fit well at a barn dance. “Like Wow -- Wipeout” then closes out the side with an ultracool start-and-stop verse that serves as a nod to the surfer-beat style to which the title and lyrics allude.

Side Two opens with the short story-like “Hayride to Hell” telling the tale of a wayward daughter over a Johnny Cash-like boom-chicka-boom that rumbles along like an old truck over a dirt road. Next is the enchanting “Show Some Emotion,” both plaintive and sweet, again showing the band effortlessly tossing off hook after hook. “The Other Side of Paradise” continues similarly with another poppy exploration of desire.

The title track follows, a party song that’s almost a kind of hell-may-care catharsis in its embracing of absurdity. “I’m a primitive man,” bellows Faulkner, a claim we know to be tongue-in-cheek after the sophistication displayed in the previous tracks. Backward guitar, chant-like backing vocals, and spacey sound effects add to the goofiness.

Finally comes “She,” a haunting closer sung by a captive lover. “I was captured, / Bound, enraptured, / Kneeling at her feet,” he explains. “Then she beckoned; / In a second / My life was complete.”

Following the previous track’s jokey reference to the sci-fi B-flick Mars Needs Women, the album’s closer might recall the famous H.R. Haggard adventure novel, one of those “lost world” stories featuring an immortal queen as ruler. Whether the allusion is intended or not, the reverb-laden vocals suitably add a feeling of desperation, and the tune adds still more variety to a remarkable collection.

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