I was amused by a review of a men's singing group from Australia.
The first thing you think upon hearing the Spooky Men's Chorale is: how can men so hairy produce sounds so wonderful?
"We stand and deliver with unaffected masculine brouhaha," frontman Steve Taberner asserts. "But we also have a warmth to the harmonies that seems to strike a chord."
Having blown away audiences at folk festivals across Britain and Australia, the 15-bloke a cappella choir are charging like a wounded mastodon into popular consciousness, bearing a new CD (Stop Scratching It) and a Ghengis Khan-like vision.
"Our stated ambition is to make women weep, small children quail and insurance salesmen vaguely aware that somewhere out there is a whole world they have never experienced," Taberner says.
A bass player and teacher of choir workshops, Taberner founded the group in 2001 in the Blue Mountains, mainly as an answer to what he calls "the blind alley" that men's singing has found itself in.
"Men's singing has become stuck between barber shop crooning and the ponciness of the King's College Choir," he explains. "We were looking for a way to get men singing together and getting a nice warm sound that was also very virile."
Supported by little more than their booming voices and robust facial hair, the band performs a selection of folk standards, idiosyncratic renditions of rock classics and original material like Don't Stand Between A Man And His Tool, which Taberner describes as being "about man's deep need to influence reality by hitting things with other things".
"Our sound is based in Georgian choral music," he says. "Georgia is a country in the Caucasus Mountains, a place where men live in stone towers, drink homebrewed vodka, ride bareback and kill one another with swords. They have a grandiose way of singing that applies to every part of their lives: they have love songs and songs about horse riding and songs for when you accidentally kill your brother by throwing him off a cliff."
The Chorale ladle in a good dose of irony. "We're all about what it's like to be a modern man - dreaming of hunting mastodon on the prairie and the reality of waking up in the morning and stepping on Lego."
Intrigued, I investigated further. The group has their own Web site, on which they describe themselves as follows:
The Spooky Men come down from the Mountains like a wolf on the fold. Forged in the red-hot cauldron of Georgian table singing, where anvil strikes bread and like their brothers of old they raise the morning sun with uplifted arms, their ecumenical embrace now extends to songs Paulian and Johnian. They sing paeans in praise of hardware yet are unafraid to face the existential angst that stares up at them from the debris of breakfast. In confronting the big questions facing men today (are they not pretty enough?), the Spooky Men strike while the irony is hot.
I did a quick search on YouTube, and found a number of their compositions. They certainly are different! Three, in particular, made me laugh. First, their 'theme song':
Next, 'Don't Stand Between A Man And His Tool':
And finally, they really are 'Magnificent':