The terrific Brisbane quartet Babaganouj has just released their debut album ‘Jumbo Pets’. It comes as quite a surprise that this is indeed a debut given band formed in 2011 and first released material quite a few years ago. Given the quality of their previous releases, however, what is no surprise is that they have created something as mature and seasoned as ‘Jumbo Pets’.
In the intervening time, we’ve had the vicissitudes of the COVID era and bass player/vocalist Harriette Pilbeam veered off with her successful solo project Hatchie while the others (Charles Sale on guitars/vocals, Ruby McGregor on guitars/vocals and George Browning on drums) got on with other stuff that happens in life.
Sale says of the extended gestation of the release and the hiatus of the band:
I don’t know, I guess we all kind of had mid-life crises. I’d spent a long time being essentially a professional musician – it was an attempt to find a life in the music industry – and then when you realise that maybe it’s not possible things have to change, I suppose.
I think it was a reconsideration and finding a new place for music in my life. It felt like the industry was difficult and with no assurances so instead you’ve got to find a new way to make it work – I think that’s why it took a while, and that’s why we’re back.
I guess Babaganouj dropped away a bit during that time, but I was always writing music for the band and thinking about it, and I was still playing – I played with Harriette in her Hatchie band for a year or two – so I had ways of being gratified in music, but collaborative processes are important to me. I like being part of a band.
Of the album, Sales says:
I think it is different to what we’ve done in the past – it’s probably a bit more reflective,” Sale muses. “All we’ve ever written about is inter-personal issues – usually romantic relationships and everything involved with them – and while this is a continuation of that theme it’s coming from a different angle and looking at them in a different light.
We’ve never been reinventing the wheel or drastically creating anything new. I consider the band to be in the folk tradition of sorts, we just tell our silly little stories for ourselves and that’s kind of nice. I guess we’re just trying to do the things we like doing.
It was a lot of work, but not very difficult in terms of the music and finding things that worked together. That was nice, when you get to this point as a band you don’t want things to be excruciating or difficult, you just want to have fun with what you have and enjoy yourselves.
Tha album is a showcase of the songwriting skills and musicianship that have blossomed in the intervening years.
Opening track ‘What Planet Do You Come From?’ is a gorgeous rich and luscious pop track – introduced by layers of harmonies before jangling guitars romp in with a driving rhythm. The sound is mature, studied and anthemic with a barbed wire spine that scissor kicks its way into your consciousness before ending in a squall of feedback. Sale’s main vocals are impassioned, wry and filled with an insouciant, punky attitude.
Both ‘Dag’ and ‘Loveworn’ have an antipodean flavour that evokes The Go-Betweens and The Apartments – seeped in melancholy and regret and delivered in an unabashed Australian vernacular.
‘She Wears Velvet’ featuring Pilbeam on vocals ups the shoegaze dial: layered harmonies and a washed out guitar wave support a driving melody that engenders a psychedelic fugue, highlighted by a hyperactive synth wash.
‘Stay Up For Me’ is a lush sixties-inflected bop with glorious harmonies: a sparkling jewel of a pop song with a yearning tone and a call and response vibrancy. It veers ever so slightly away from a shoegaze wall of noise and yet has a powerful drive and sky high melodies with a bubblegum pop delivery.
‘Chinatown Rooftop Paper Bag’ presses genty on the brakes and is almost a soulful bluesy and reflective track that evokes a lazy afternoon in the hot Queensland sunlight, whereas ‘Not Allowed To Be Happy’ is a joyful pop song streaked with a melancholic delivery and clocking in less than a minute. ‘Dumb For You’ veers into an antipodean Americana style with its duel vocals and sense of deep yearning.
‘Every Inch of Your Love’ struts with a gothic tinge and howling guitars that recalls fellow Brisbanites The Saints – a touch of swagger and bravado with a supercilious, sardonic delivery. Final track ‘Shiny Shiny Shiny’ has a reverberated tremoled approach giving it a warped discombobulated sound in the distance while the vocals provide a steadying thread: a dreamy pop exit.
‘Jumbo Pets’ is a treasure trove of gems – enhanced by a style that gently wanders across genres with a steady pace but with a golden thread of a wry delivery, a self-deprecating sense of humour and indelible melodies that shine through.
The album is out now through the marvellous Coolin’ By Sound and Redeye Records and you can get it below or through the normal streaming and download sites here.
You can catch the ‘nouj live in Brisbane this evening and in a couple of weeks:
April 1 at Sonic Sherpa – free in store appearance at 5pm.
April 16 at Black Bear Lodge (tickets here)