Here’s a clip of Antipodean power pop underdogs Hoodoo Gurus with their jangly anthem for the uncool, “What’s My Scene?” as taken from their 1987 disc, Blow Your Cool!. If you’re looking for candidates for the most ironic and self-referential would-be pop smash ever recorded, I’d say this should make anyone’s top five.
The 80s was the decade of the demographic where radio and pop music was concerned. It was during this time when a record release was becoming less about the songs on the album itself, and more about the buzz surrounding it, even before anyone heard a note. And post-MTV and Thriller, visuals and production values ruled the day. In short, 1987 was a poor time to be a goofy, poorly dressed power-pop band, let alone one from Australia.
The odds were against Hoodoo Gurus by the late 80s in the image department – too quirky, too idiosyncratic, too unpolished by half. All of these were cardinal sins in the 80s, at least when it came to mainstream success. So as the band was on a major label (Elektra), it was thought that a production overhaul on this their third album in working with the same producer who oversaw albums by fellow Australian outfits INXS, The Divinyls, and AC/DC – Mark Opitz – might do the trick for North American radio.
Luckily, Opitz merely sharpened up what had been there all along, instead of trying to jam this group into a mold that didn’t suit them. As such, the sound is crisp yet spacious and the songs shine through. And of course, the group’s left-of-centre take on the world still shines. These guys remain proud to never really fit in at the cool kids’ table, during a time when nearly everyone in their position would do nearly anything to do just that. As such, the record is a success.
Where it might have been something of a danger to take an idiosyncratic band and try to market them 80s style, the strength the material makes this as charming and cheeky as anything they’d ever done. This song and the album off of which it comes didn’t set the world on fire. Yet it certainly makes for great, and timeless, power pop which was coming out of an age that didn’t value music this straightforward in the mainstream. And of course it has the best opening line in any song I can immediately think of – “… And another thing”. The subject matter of this song proves that the band had everything in perspective enough to be able to allude to the answer to their own musical question.
They were their own scene.
For more music and information, check out the Hoodoo Gurus MySpace Page.