Ending up with the intensity and passion of a U2, Hunters & Collectors carved a unique path and place for themselves in Australian rock culture. The group was originally formed in post-punk 1981 in Melbourne as a collective rather than a band, an excursion into funk-rock rhythms and industrial Krautrock. They named themselves after a song by Can.
The group's early performances are remembered as chaotic, with audience members encouraged to join in with rubbish bin lids or fire extinguishers. The extended lineup included a massed horn section known as the Horns of Contempt. Inside all this was singer Mark Seymour, with an ear for a melody and a taste for lyrical poetry. Illustrating the dichotomy at work, "Talking to a Stranger," the band's first single in July 1982, featured a concise edited version of the song on one side and a full-length seven-minute version on the other side. The single's theme of alienation and anguish is one the band would return to, but for the moment, the group's emphasis was the free-form side of its work. The Hunters' reputation spread to Europe, where a stripped-back band spent six months in 1983, recording a second album, The Fireman's Curse in Germany, with producer Conny Plank (Can, Kraftwerk). Pruned back to its essentials, the band recorded another album with Plank, The Jaws of Life, and a single-only song, "Throw Your Arms Around Me," in the ""Talking to a Stranger" mold. Hunters & Collectors were at a crossroads.
After a live album came Human Frailty, where Seymour's deep songs about alienation and sexual politics came to the fore. The bandmembers had discovered how to tap the unique vein they had unearthed in the audience, where in a sweat-dripping venue packed to the rafters with a beer-swilling macho rock audience, that audience would at the top of their voices sing the song chorus "You don't make me feel like a woman anymore." A newly recorded "Throw Your Arms Around Me" became one of the undisputed classic songs of Australian rock, and from now until their end Hunters & Collectors would remain one of Australian rock's favorite live attractions. While successive studio albums did their best to explore new themes and new sounds to varying degrees of success, it was the live performances fans were waiting for, and with each new album it was the older material radio wanted to play. In the end, Hunters & Collectors were strangled by their own legend.
In 1998, the bandmembers announced they were recording their final album, Juggernaut, and supported it with a farewell tour. Mark Seymour released a solo album, King Without a Clue, continuing his relentless search for meaning through song. When soundman John Archer auctioned off the personally designed PA that had been carried by the band for almost 20 years, it signaled not just the end of Hunters & Collectors, but also the end of Australian music's post-punk era. ~ Ed Nimmervoll