Sunday 17 August 2014

The Hummingbirds

Alvvays – writers of the year’s biggest pop song, Archie, Marry Me –have the good taste to cover The Hummingbirds’ 1987 debut Alimony live. I hope they record it and introduce The Hummingbirds to a new audience.

After Alimony, The Hummingbirds released 3 more powerpop singles – every one of them a peach - in 1988 on Sydney’s Phantom label. It’d be very difficult to find fault with any side of these records, so I won’t even try.

Guitarist Simon Holmes said:
I was very big on this whole Smiths or Beatles idea of putting out a new single every three months, putting new stuff out all the time: bang, bang bang. It was an exciting thing to do.

They then signed to rooArt. Their first big-label single Blush has a booklet where the band tell their story:

The legendary Mitch Easter worked on their 1989 Love Buzz album. Unusually, Easter’s Midas touch didn’t work. All 4 of the Phantom songs reworked by Easter sound better with their original sandpaper riffs, cheap hiss, guts and glory.

At the time this looked like a classic case of big money trying to get an indie band to cross over to the charts. It didn’t help that their videos were mostly awful.

But they were still great tunes and the US market, especially, takes to commercial powerpop. Maybe the time and the image wasn’t right. 2 years later when The Hummingbirds released their second album Va Va Voom, grunge had crossed over. Radio and TV were playing 'alternative rock' like never before. The door was open for The Hummingbirds to reach a big audience.

Again produced by Mitch Easter, Va Va Voom is brutally beautiful, tender, tough and hook-laden. It really is one of the great lost albums of the 1990s. The same year, 1991, Matthew Sweet made the US top ten with Girlfriend. It takes no leap of faith to believe that If A Vow could have had similar success.

The time was right for The Hummingbirds. If only their label had kept faith in them, they’d have been massive. But Va Va Voom only got an Australian release. Someone should reissue it. It's a masterpiece.

The Lemonheads scored their biggest hit in 1993 with Into Your Arms, co-written by Hummingbirds bassist Robyn St Clare in her other band the Love Positions.

Disregarding commercial concerns, any time is right for The Hummingbirds. You’ll have no trouble finding Love Buzz cheap in a second-hand shop. And hunt down Va Va Voom. You won’t regret it.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah agreed, Va Va Voom was one of the great lost 90s classics 👍