The early '80s produced a bumper crop of rock 'n' roll groups encouraged and emboldened by the "anyone can be a rock star" mentality wrought a few years earlier by the punk and new wave schools. Unfortunately, staying power didn't seem to be a quality enjoyed by many of these groups: Such trends as "new romantic," "ska," "techno-pop," "cowpunk" and "psychobilly" came and went, seemingly within weeks of one another, making and breaking dozens of bands in their wakes.
Perhaps because they never identified themselves with any fly-by-night movement of the moment and thus were harder to define, Australia's Hoodoo Gurus, who play tonight at the Coach House, have endured, even as they have functioned (at least in America) on the fringes of the "alternative" scene.
Beginning with their debut album "Stoneage Romeos" in 1983, the Gurus carved out a small but comfortable niche with an aggressive but melodic and entertaining blend of Fleshtones-like garage rock energy, Ramones-like humor and Crammps-like fascination with pop culture.
After a three-year hiatus from the recording studio, the Gurus' recently released sixth album, "Crank," finds them in an even louder and more audacious mode than usual. According to singer/principal songwriter Dave Faulkner, the album is an attempt to come closer to capturing the band's notoriously kinetic concert energy.
"The sound of it is a lot closer to our real, live sound," he said during a recent phone conversation. "We've always tried to get that, but I think it's not quite been nailed until now. I guess the songs we wrote were a bit more like our live show, too. Our songs have that same sort of atmosphere from the get-go."
Also helping to achieve the desired sound was producer Ed Stasium (Ramones, Living Colour, Smithereens), who allowed the normally self-produced group a chance to relax and to concentrate more on performance.
"Ed made the difference," Faulkner said. "He was an arbitrator, hand-holder and general mood-lifter, that's what he did for us. He kept things nice and light and we were able to lean back and enjoy ourselves instead of having to worry about looking at each other and stressing out about the production ourselves."
Faulkner, 36, grew up in remote Perth, Australia, listening to the Beatles and Rolling Stones albums his older brother brought home. When punk rock began to get its first wave of attention in the late '70s, Faulkner was all ears.
"The punk experience really crystallized things for me, because I really always had a problem with the art-rock genre. I actually bought a Yes album once ('Tales of Topographic Oceans') and I couldn't understand it. I went to the record store and it was, like, a groovy import store with headphones and bean bags, marvelous innovations. I took the album home and was quite intimidated by it."
Itching to join a band, Faulkner hooked up with some local kids, and a career was born.
"My first group was an R&B; group, which I didn't appreciate at the time because I wanted to be in a punk group so badly. But there's things I learned in that group that I still draw on all the time today."
The Hoodoo Gurus came together in Sydney in 1981, combining the spirit and energy of punk with the rhythmic muscle of R&B; and the pop sensibility of the early British groups. Faulkner utilized all the musical lessons he'd learned to that point in creating the group's sound.
"We've still got all these fans that come out and see us, luckily," Faulkner said. "I guess there's a lot of different bands that have come and gone--mostly gone--and we're still here, comin' at ya! As long as the music's fun, people want to hear us and there's no creditors hounding us, we're OK."
* The Hoodoo Gurus play tonight at the Coach House, 33157 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano. 9 Days Wonder and the Lemmings open. 8 p.m. $19.50. (714) 496-8930.