For those of us here in Seattle — okay, for most people who listen to music — the words “love buzz” instantly bring to mind the song by Shocking Blue, covered by Nirvana in 1988 and released as both the band’s debut single and the very first Sub Pop Single of the Month — a dual-purpose landmark, if you will. But never mind all of that; this is loveBUZZ, the 1989 album by Australian band The Hummingbirds, who were conceivably quite unaware of both the original song of that name and the 7″ single that was, even as they recorded this album, slowly releasing seismic waves across the globe, originating in Seattle.
Here’s how small the world of 1980s college rock is, though. I wasn’t even trying to tie anything in with last week’s post about Guadalcanal Diary (and, tangentially, R.E.M.), but here it is anyway: loveBUZZ was produced by Mitch Easter, who co-produced the early R.E.M. albums with none other than Don Dixon, producer of last week’s Standing in the Shadow of the Big Man. How about that? (And I bet if I wanted to try and find a connection to fellow Australians The Church, I could; I’ll leave that for someone more ambitious, though.)
Back to the Hummingbirds, though. This is yet another one of those bands that, mystifyingly, just never quite made it into the popular consciousness, despite great songs, a major label, and the enthusiasm of at least some stateside college DJs. (Willfully Obscure has a nice rundown on the band and album.) As always, I’m happy to take a moment to bring a deserving band back into the public consciousness, however briefly.
“This is the music that made… radio great. Probably the best album ever done in Australia. [Now hang on, let’s not get carried away here.] Great songs, harmonies — uplifting, intelligent, every track is airworthy. 1-1, 1-4, 2-1 is great rocker, 2-2 as well, 2-3 is a lovely gentle one, ‘Barbarian’ kills. ETc. I cannot say too much about this. Both male + female vox – last track is a lovely, gentle one. Etc. Etc. Etc.”
“Great! Produced by Mitch Easter, but harder-edged than a lot of his other productions.”
“Too damn poppy for me!”
“Lame? Hardly. Had this come out in 1984-85, it would’ve been hailed as a great recording & influenced many bands across the nation. As it stands, it’s still a great album, but since they don’t have grunge pedals they’ll get little hip attention.”
“Also on CD.”
“Nice & all; groovey & stuff, but they don’t really break any new ground. They don’t really make me go yeah.”
“Yeah, yeah, you’re right.”
“OK… I’ll admit it. I still like melodic ‘quirky’ pop music. I don’t tell anyone cuz it’s not cool any more, but this record has the snap and crackle of perfect pop — out of the closet & glad of it…”
“Doesn’t do much for me.”