Top Hoodoo Gurus Songs of the '80s

Australian guitar-centric band Hoodoo Gurus emerged during the mid '80s as a viable rock music alternative to popular genres of the period like arena rock, hair metal and hard rock. College rock, power pop and early alternative music circles quickly embraced the band's quirky, straight-ahead guitar rock, particularly in America where the band's pop culture fascinations typically lay. Four solid albums released within six years proved the group's melodic gifts, and here's a chronological look at the finest Hoodoo Gurus songs of the group's peak era.

01
of 08

"Tojo"

Hoodoo Gurus performing live at the 2008 Glastonbury Festival. 29th June 2008.
Photoshot/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Hoodoo Gurus' interest in kitschy pop culture could lead a listener to believe that this song, the band's sophomore 1983 single (following 1982's "Leilani"), is merely a novelty celebration of stereotypical Japanese culture flashpoints. The guitar intro and the primary guitar lines throughout, after all, certainly recall a general Far East vibe. Combined with the album's cover image featuring a creature that could have populated any number of Godzilla-styled movies, that could be all there is to it. However, main songwriter Dave Faulkner always has a lot more than going on in his creative vision than just the surface would suggest. Ultimately, his effort here translates into hooky, bouncy fun fueled by obscure but curiosity-inducing lyrics.

02
of 08

"My Girl"

Single Cover Image Courtesy of Big Time
The band settles into a calmer groove for this lovelorn classic (the band's third single released prior to its debut LP but still appearing on the record). Nevertheless, when Faulkner breaks into the transcendent chorus, the sturdy imprint of the quartet's rock power shines through as clearly as ever. Rarely can a contemporary band present a sentiment like "My girl don't love me anymore" within an arrangement as joyous as the one used here and not sound too ironic for its own good. But the throwback college rock genius of the Gurus reaches far beyond this apparent trick. This is guitar pop music that should have ubiquitously peppered mainstream radio, but the fact that it didn't still manages to seem completely appropriate.
03
of 08

"I Want You Back"

Single Cover Image Courtesy of Big Time
Many early fans of the band received their introduction to the majesty of Hoodoo Gurus through this near-perfect modern rock single. Its lofty reputation is most certainly deserved, but the memorable melodies and driving riffs should never overshadow the unique gift of Faulkner's vocals. His is not a traditionally captivating timbre by any means, to be sure, but Faulkner's style nevertheless demonstrates a capability for genuine emotional communication. At the same time, the Gurus sound depends upon the potential for Faulkner's lyrics and delivery to turn on a dime from earnest longing and embrace sneering irony. As usual for these Australian legends, this track is full of wonderful surprises.
04
of 08

"Bittersweet"

Single Cover Image Courtesy of Chrysalis/Elektra
Just as debut LP Stoneage Romeos has far more to offer than just the three singles spotlighted above, 1985's comes across after minimal listens as a complete album statement. Even so, this well-known track serves as both showpiece and anchor for the band's brilliance. Bright, mid-tempo guitars characterized by a blend of arpeggios and power chords help to create a dynamic musical landscape perfect for building interesting sonic layers. Hard-rocking power pop was not easy to find during the '80s - at least not without disguises designed to fool the marketplace. Luckily for the appreciative listener, Hoodoo Gurus didn't need to dabble in such nonsense.
05
of 08

"Death-Defying"

Album Cover Image Courtesy of Chrysalis/Elektra
The firm establishment of new guitarist Brad Shepherd by this point of the band's career ensured a stability in the Hoodoo Gurus sound that allowed frontman Faulkner even more room to craft tasty guitar pop songs. This band pretty much never experienced drop-off in quality from track to track (certainly on its first two near-flawless records), and this tune is not about to break the trend. It's still a mystery to many Gurus fans how commercial radio managed to resist the straightforward hooks that drive a song like this one. After all, the Gurus were just moderately quirky and minimally weird, not enough, it seems, to alienate the armies protecting the music industry bottom line. Alas.
06
of 08

"Show Some Emotion"

Here's a great example of the classic Hoodoo Gurus album track, a solid, perfectly structured guitar rock anthem that brings pleasure in whatever manner one chooses to listen. It's not an insult but rather an off-kilter sort of ultimate compliment to say that this is the kind of music that can be enjoyed to equal degrees as background music while handling various tasks or as intensive, single-minded listening. Hoodoo Gurus is a multi-layered band that has never received due credit for faceted greatness.
07
of 08

"Out That Door"

Album Cover Image Courtesy of Elektra/Chrysalis
Saying that Hoodoo Gurus' final two albums of the '80s (1987's and 1989's ) represent a bit of a decline for the band is probably excessive, like your parents making a big deal out of that one B+ among a sea of A's. Still, that's one way to characterize the group's late '80s period. Perhaps not as many songs stand up as unimpeachable classics, but this one certainly doesn't fall into that category of muted success. The guitar punch from Faulkner and Shepherd clearly separates alternative rock of the era from merely alternative music, and once again the melodies, scorching leads and haunting vocals make for great driving, walking or lounging music - all at the same time if necessary.
08
of 08

"Come Anytime"

Single Cover Image Courtesy of RCA
Acoustic guitars don't make frequent appearances in Gurus songs, but when they do there's always a rhythmic or textural purpose for their presence. This 1989 single takes a typically driving approach to straight-ahead rock, even mixing in a convincing and evocative roots rock vibe through its use of organ lines. The band's signature call-and-response backing and harmony vocals have always been a central part of the Hoodoo Gurus sound, but along with other simple elements they never sound boring or listless. The group filled an '80s rock niche that needed filling, and it continues to do so with ample authority.