After 18 years and 700 performances around the world, the Spooky Men’s Chorale is nearly ready to release their seventh album in celebration of coming of age. Founded in the Blue Mountains but appearing at prestigious festivals all over the UK and Australia, this group has gathered quite a following of loyal fans keen on the neat balance between spooky and silly with which the Spooky Men infuse their music.
The Spooky Men produce a strange ambience when clad in all black and each creatively be-hatted as they wander dazed and befuddled onto the stage. Conductor Stephen Taberner corrals them into order for their introductory number “We Are Not a Men’s Group” which immediately summarises the tone of their performance. This is nothing like any other choir you’ve come across. There is a serious commitment to the persona of hapless masculine obliviousness shaped by the dry wit of Taberner’s commentary and narration.
Performing a mix of original songs and unexpected covers, the Spooky Men maintain a warming attitude of self-aware mockery when singing about a range of serious and silly topics from masculinity to existentialism, incompatible technology advancements to violence and climate change. A crowd favourite from this concert was the love song “Sweetest Kick” sung in a gentle low harmony about the unpredictability of falling in and out of love. This contrasts with a cover of “Not Pretty Enough” by Kasey Chambers which was pure over-performance or “Mess Song” about the familiar but unexplainable phenomena of messes exponentially expanding when you’re not looking.
An exceptional example from the line-up was the Spooky Men’s cover of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” which surprisingly and delightfully injected a yodelling folkiness to the pop rock classic in a grand and original remix. This was a new song reveal hinted to be included in the upcoming album launch but it spoke to their finale performance of a very odd take on “Staying Alive” by the Bee Gees framed as a Sufi prophecy of a musical resurrection.
A particular section of the concert payed homage to the group’s spooky roots with some Georgian table songs retelling rather specific tales of (mis)adventure and long journeys. These repetitive, almost incantatory songs show off the group’s unique vocal capabilities and strikes precisely on the threshold between their stoic, removed personas and the captivation with which they hold the audience.
The dry, bordering on daggy humour of the Spooky Men generates a remarkably warm and good-humoured atmosphere, the success of which was palpable in the crowd’s insistence on an encore. Taberner spoke briefly on the instability and uncertainty running rife in our world at the moment, ranging from irresponsible politics to blatant denial of climate change to growing violence, and offered the Spooky Men and their performance as an antidote of sorts. With their positive nature and self-reflective optimism, it’s not hard to see why people are drawn to the Spooky Men and their lyrics of general good-naturedness.
For more information about the Spooky Men’s Chorale’s upcoming performances and their tour of the UK and Germany later this year, visit their website.