Almanac Music: Aussie album review – Hoodoo Gurus “Stoneage Romeos”




Artist: Hoodoo Gurus

Album: Stoneage Romeos

Released: 1984

The i-pod has a mind of its own, you know. At least mine does. How else to explain it teasing me by playing Neil Finn followed by Split Enz followed by Crowded House whilst randomly shuffling? That’s no mean feat for a hand-held juke-box containing upwards of 15,000 songs.

Recently, it presented me with two consecutive Hoodoo Gurus tunes. I took this as a sign that the devious little device was sending me a message, telling me that I had been too long since I had listened to the Gurus. And so it was that I found myself playing – and enjoying – Stoneage Romeos, with the volume up a few notches higher than normal.

The beauty of this album is its simplicity. It’s guitars, guitars, guitars, interlaced with hooks and melodies that are just so easy to hum along to. Those riffs take a hold of you right from the start of the stomping opener Let’s All Turn On and they rarely let you go for the album’s entirety. Sure, Dave Faulkner doesn’t possess the greatest voice in music, but as a writer of catchy pop songs he borders on genius. Try these classics on for size: A Place in the Sun”, What’s My Scene, Bittersweet, Like Wow-Wipeout, Good Times, I Was the One, Miss Freelove ’69 and 1000 Miles Away. Not a bad footprint to glance back at when considering your place in Australian pop music.

There are good times a-plenty: the jungle-like beat on Leilani (despite the tragedy of the story), the daggy charm of “Death Ship”, and straight-out rock of I was a Kamikaze pilot.

It is jangly early-era R.E.M. without Stipe’s politics and angst. It is the podium to which many garage and surf bands have aspired. And although it now feels slightly dated – with even my i-pod noticing the production verging on tinny in places – the highlights more than account for the shortcomings. There are not too many better fade-in intros and build-ups to chorus than what the classic “I want you back” delivers. Tojo is almost as good. And as for the beautiful love lament of “My girl”: the moments when Australian pop reaches this level of perfection are rare. A large part of this album’s charm is the fact that it does not outstay its welcome – there sure is something to be said for a quality bunch of 3-minute pop songs.

Over the years, that old i-pod has become an essential part of my every-day life. Yep, it does have a mind of its own, but most times (given I was the one who created its content) I find myself taking its cues and vigorously agreeing with it.

About Darren Dawson

Always North.


  1. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Smoke, Yessss

    They were in the sweet spot between my left of the dial tastes and those of Mrs Swish. We saw them quite a few times.

    Stoneage Romeos was not as polished as its successors, which adds to its appeal.

    Have you ever heard the Mid-00s Oz Indie tribute, Stoneage Cameos?

    Thought that the Gurus went off for a bit when they were seduced by The Bangles, but gee they’ve been durable.

    And that whole shuffle thing, it often throws up adjacent related tracks (Lou Reed, VU) or four Beatles tracks in a row. It’s like listening to my own curated radio station. I often wonder whether it is happenstance or some very clever software? Or does my warped mind make connections that only I could understand.

  2. Saw Dave and James last week as the Victims in a tiny pub room in Brisvegas. While the jangle was missing from the guitar, there was a sense of rhythm that jumped out at me. Vocally, he came over as strong in comparison with the usual fare through the small PA. His songwriting skills were always pretty up there methinks. The night was a great tribute to garage punk rocks early days. I wasn’t much of a fan of the Gurus post Leilani, (Don’t go to the volcano Leilani!), but they were in the nineties at least, one of the best live shows getting around in terms of production. Big in US college radio too.

  3. Andrew Fithall says

    Good stuff Smokie.

  4. Hey Gus, that Victims reunion would have been a beauty. I had the Melb show pencilled in (at a small Footscray pub) but couldn’t make it.

    Great reminder Smokie. The Gurus had some ripper tunes and were definitely an 80s must live show. The last time I saw them was three years ago at The Prince of Wales, and they were a surprising letdown. Just didn’t have enough songs to hold our attention. Highlight was the extended jungle version of Lelini. Big letdown? Not playing My Girl! WTF

  5. Smokie- Gee they went well, the Hoodoo Gurus.

    Leilani is such an iconic song. It was the first number of theirs I heard, and is still the best. It reminded me how much fun rock music could be. Great live act for many years too.

    Thanks for that. Look forward to where your iPod next takes us.

  6. No pretensions, no messages – just feel good music!

  7. Listening to Leilani as I type this. Check this one out :

    Recall my mate Owen back in ’84 telling me I must come over to his house and listen to this new LP he had just bought. Kicking back in his lounge room in Edward St Norwood (Adelaide crew will know the area!), and it was like being his around the head. Almost as good as the first time I heard Blue Monday (at Bay Disco), or my first hearing of the Presets. This album is still the favourite of my mate Tom (and he has an excellent and eclectic range of tastes). Still a better offering than anything the Hoodoos subsequently did. Recall seeing Le Hoodoo Gurus at Adeladie Uni bar on a lazy Friday lunchtime sometime in ?83. And Gus, I’m rather envious. Never got to see the Victims Gus, so rather envious, and can’t find any details of a possible ADL gig.
    Smokie, I look forward to your next instalment (and I hope it’s not some NZ /pseudo Oz trash).

  8. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Great stuff Smokie,
    Didn’t get into ‘Stoneage Romeos’ but ‘Mars Needs Guitars’ got me hooked. Underrated Aussie band that featured some pretty decent guitar work from Brad Shepherd. ‘Like Wow’ was a crowd pleaser at most school parties in the summer of 1985-86. Often we went off when that song came on.

  9. Luke Reynolds says

    Great first choice of album Smokie. Stoneage Romeos would be in my top 10. Not a bad song on it, all the ones you mentioned are classics and one you didn’t mention, ‘Zanzibar’ is probably my favourite track on it.
    I first heard the Gurus when the single “Miss Freelove” and the album “Kinky” were released in 1991. Became an instant fan. Was a shock when I saw one of their earlier clips for the first time and saw that Dave Faulkner had had long hair!
    Have seen the Gurus live twice, the most recent time being in November at Werribee Park. Mrs R and I worked our way to the front of stage and were treated to a brilliant performance by the band, Dave Faulkner 10 metres in front of us. All the hits (My Girl included) and some other songs that we were thrilled to hear, such as “Zanzibar” and the Brad Shephard sung “You Open My Eyes”.
    Their most recent albums, ‘Mach Schau’ and ‘Purity of Essence’ are extremely good too and well worth a listen.
    And what a great album cover Stoneage Romeos has.

  10. Thanks for the comments, one and all.
    I am aware of the existence of Stoneage Cameos, but have not heard it. Yet. Agree with you that the Gurus had ups and downs: Blow Your Cool was a stinker in my opinion!
    I too saw that the Victims were playing in Footscray the other week but decided not to go, which I am regretting now.
    Rabid D,
    the next instalment is most definitely an Australian!
    Mars Needs Guitars is their second best album!
    The guitar riff at the stat of Miss Freelove is killer!

  11. Sean Gorman says

    Sir Smokealot…… nice job.

  12. There’s a couple of videos I’ve seen of the Melbourne Victims show, but I can’t find any links to them now….

    I’m pretty sure Carbie Warbie did them, but nothing on his youtube channel. Still searching.

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