Today on March 11th, 2022, Australian Rock mainstays Hoodoo Gurus released their 10th studio album and their first in 12 years, Chariot of the Gods. Ahead of that release, the band played the entire album live in studio in Australia and streamed that concert globally on March 10th in various time zones via eMusic Live. The band have also recently celebrated their 40th anniversary, making the album’s arrival even more momentous.
Hoodoo Gurus features Dave Faulkner (vocals, guitars), Brad Shepherd (vocals, guitars), Rick Grossman (vocals, bass) and Nik Reith (drums) and this was their first album recording with Reith. While the album had several singles and videos released ahead of its arrival, for most people this livestream would have been their first opportunity to see and hear the band play the new songs live. Given Hoodoo Gurus longstanding ethos as a live band, this was an integral part of experiencing the album.
While the craftsmanship in the studio is everywhere apparent on Chariot of the Gods, even bringing in new experiments like Power Pop vocal harmonies on “Get Out of Dodge”, hearing the album’s songs live brought out the band’s Punk roots more clearly and added a certain force to many of the outspoken lyrics crafted by Faulkner.
Though they’ve never been a band to shy away from cultural references, Chariot of the Gods is particularly punchy in talking about abusive relationships in “Answered Prayers”, Trump and Putin in “Hung Out To Dry” (which is actually from the extended vinyl version of the album), expanding gender norms in “Hang With The Girls”, and reflections on genocide and cultural reckoning in the title track, “Chariot of the Gods”. That makes up only a few of the socially relevant examples to be found on the album.
A good number of the songs also dive into relationship dynamics, romantic or otherwise, putting emphasis on rifts, life-changes, having to make hard decisions to move on, but always with a kind of clear-eyed analysis and synthesis of emotional truths gained in the process. The hard-hitting “My Imaginary Friend” details a lifelong friendship “going south” and simply disappearing. Though the term “ghosting” isn’t used, that’s a very relevant concept.
“Equinox” deals with a major life-changing event with a more positive spin (with vocals performed by Brad Shepherd). “Settle Down” jokes that friends have “found new lives on Amazon”, and the “ballad” of the album, “Was I supposed to Care?” urges reflection on past relationships and counts on the support of friends while engaging in a subtle self-critique. Let’s not forget “Got To Get You Out of My Life”, with its Lou Reed vibes which could no doubt be called an ode to removing toxic people from one’s circle.
If you’re wondering if 40 years has changed the underlying attitude behind the band, you need look no further than “Don’t Try to Save My Soul” from the album. Its classic vibes and Rock rhythms confirm, “I’m a slave for Rock ‘n’ Roll.” Performing it left Dave Faulkner smiling and laughing towards the end of the set.
During the livestream, Faulkner shared that it had now been two years since working on the album, and no doubt the band were spoiling to play those songs live, but it does make you wonder what else they might have been getting up to in terms of songwriting in the meantime. However, he also referred to the performance as experiencing the songs in a “raw, stripped back state”, which may have referred to how finely tuned the recorded album has been, but didn’t do justice to the elements that shine when the songs take shape live. It may be that he also meant the band hadn’t had a chance to refine the live versions of the song on the road yet.
For good measure, the band threw in some of their favored back catalog with “Come Anytime”, “1,000 Miles Away”, and “Like Wow”. Hearing those songs in close comparison to the new tracks suggested that Chariot of the Gods is actually closer to the band’s roots than some of their intermediary work, which any Hoodoo Gurus fans is likely to celebrate.
But the new album in fact shows plenty of variety in terms of musical directions, while working with lyrics that show a certain grit perhaps inspired just as much by the times that we live in as the band’s early work. It’s a welcome directness and something that confirms that Hoodoo Gurus are far more than a legacy band. They continue to keep their feet firmly planted on the ground alongside their audience.