Melbourne’s Hunters & Collectors started as an arty new wave band, but ‘Holy Grail’, released in 1992, is pure slice of Australian pub rock. There’s plenty to critique; it’s based around the straightforward I – IV – VI -V chord progression, most famously utilised by Boston’s ‘More Than A Feeling’, while Mark Seymour’s lyrics are often a series of unrelated cliches strung together (“We were full of beans/But we were dying like flies”).
But it’s the details in the arrangement that make ‘Holy Grail’ work. The rhythm guitar part livens up the familiar chord sequence, the keyboard part adds a memorable motif, and the horns add body. As well as a horn section, the band’s official membership also includes their live sound engineer.
While it’s been co-opted as an Australian football anthem, the song’s lyrics are actually about Napoleon’s failed conquest of Russia in 1812, paralleling the band’s unsuccessful attempts to find success in America.