Listen to this track by Australian post-new wave ambassadors Hunters And Collectors. It’s “Throw Your Arms Around Me”, a hit single off of their high-profile 1986 record Human Frailty, and released earlier as a stand-alone two years earlier.
This song is considered to be a national treasure, being highly regarded as one of the best singles recorded by any band in Australia. It has scored top ten placements in poles for decades after it was re-recorded on the album and put out again as a single. Maybe a part of its appeal is that it’s a love song, although one that adds some lyrical angles that isn’t typical in love songs. Another aspect is that it’s nothing short of an anthem, designed to be sung for and with a live crowd. Listening to it, you can hear the space set apart in the arrangement for the heaving throngs singing along while swaying out in front of stages.
It also hints at something that is certainly resonant to human experience; our ephemeral existence and our call to seize the day.
Human Frailty was the breakthrough Hunters And Collectors album particularly in their native country, and in New Zealand. It scored praise with critics and fans, while selling a lot of albums too. This is possibly due to its design, which was focused on deliberate accessibility to the mainstream by then. It was their first top ten album and one that would be listed as one of the top 100 Australian albums ever by Australia’s venerated Triple J at #76.
The album benefited from a central emotional anchor in that head writer, guitarist, and singer Mark Seymour was in a happy relationship at the time. This song certainly reflects that. But, coming out of a songwriting tradition that valued the interplay of light and dark tonally speaking, any love songs written by Seymour were bound to avoid any hackneyed sentiments, even if the band at this point in time were deliberately setting out to make a commercial record. So, in this song, love is strong and powerful. But, so is the reality of its ending, and the shortness of our lives spent pursuing it.
That’s a pretty universal balance and is perhaps the reason why this song is so versatile as a soundtrack for both the happiest and the saddest occasions when people gather to celebrate, and to mourn respectively. This is because it is a love song that doesn’t deal in eternity, but rather the opposite. In this song, the reason that love and life are so precious is because neither will last forever. Each is to be savoured and appreciated to the utmost in the present, in the exact moment it is experienced. This is its genius.
“Throw Your Arms Around Me” has been covered by fellow antipodeans Crowded House on their Farewell To The World album, featuring Mark Seymour’s brother Nick Seymour on bass of course. It’s also been covered by Pearl Jam, with Eddie Vender being a documented Aussie-phile. Even if this is a song tied to Australian culture, its themes and its eloquence around them make it applicable wherever it’s sung or heard.
Hunters And Collectors broke up in 1998. But, in 2013 they reformed. You can learn more about them by visiting the appropriately named humanfrailty.com.au.
And for more on the cultural significance in Australia, read this article from The Guardian.