Under Review: Hoodoo Gurus – Purity Of Essence

Power pop is a hard genre to dislike.  At least, that’s how my experience with the decades-long legacy of melodic guitar-driven pop has played out.  Of course, some bands have done power pop better than others, and Sydney’s Hoodoo Gurus have done it better than most.  The Gurus’ own history has been a little shaky in recent years, with Dave Faulkner regrouping the band every few years for an album and tour.  It wasn’t always like that, as the Gurus once had a pretty big deal of a career, bolstered mainly by popularity in Australia and on college radio abroad.  Since their official reformation in 2003, the Gurus have released two albums: 2004’s Mach Schau and the new Purity Of Essence.  Since the Gurus’ brand of psychedelic- and garage-inspired power pop has been their signature for the better part of almost 30 years, any new material from the band is going to be at once fresh and familiar.  The album, like Mars Needs Guitars and Magna Cum Louder before it, leads with one of its best songs.  “Crackin’ Up” is a blast of classic Gurus wit and guitar fury, and is an immediately gratifying addition to the band’s catalogue.  Plenty of other songs on Purity Of Essence would find themselves very much at home alongside “I Want You Back” and “What’s My Scene,” such as the jittery “I Hope Your Happy” and the flashback haze of “1968.”  At 16 songs and just over an hour long, Purity Of Essence does have some weaker moments that could’ve been clipped to make a neater overall package.  The faux-funky “Only In America” has a neat groove, but its lyrics are rather limp.  Mid-tempo closer “The Stars Looks Down” brings an otherwise outrageously fun string of songs to a clunky conclusion.  To counter these drags, the Gurus have provided an abundance of good-to-great songs, like the brooding “Ashamed Of Me” and the incredibly hooky “Let Me In.”  Though the current incarnation of the Gurus is most likely around to serve and entertain longtime fans, Purity Of Essence proves that the band aren’t just making the rounds on the greatest hits circuit.  It’s an admirable feat for any band to bring itself back from a hiatus of any length, and the Gurus up that ante by releasing an album that defines their career just as strongly as the albums of their heyday.

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~ by E. on May 14, 2010.

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