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The Jungle Giants may seem like the new kids on the block, but the Brisbane indie popsters have been quietly making a name for themselves over the last few years, all working towards this – their debut LP, Learn To Exist. The quartet have been delivering polished, guitar-driven tunes since their debut self-titled EP in 2011, and then with its follow-up in 2012. They’ve been playing high-profile festivals like this year’s Splendour In The Grass, winning the 2011 Billy Thorpe scholarship for songwriting and earning their high rotation on triple j with singles like She’s A Riot.
As Learn To Exist opens, with Come And Be Alone With Me, it’s clear that the outfit is going to deliver the indie pop gems what we’ve come to expect, while posing an important question – what can these guys give us that’s different from their Aussie contemporaries?
Don’t get me wrong – The Jungle Giants are doing what they do very well. As we roll into the second track on the album, current single I Am What You Want Me To Be, it’s evident that this is a quality production, with the melodic, high-energy track hinting at The Strokes, playing at Interpol‘s sweet little brother, full of youth and energy and a dash of dirty rock ‘n’ roll. But it is a little brother just the same – Learn To Exist isn’t really breaking new ground…yet.
It’s with the fourth track on the record, album standout A Pair Of Lovers, that stuff starts getting really exciting, with The Jungle Giants breaking their own mould and trying something new. It’s darker than anything we’ve heard from them yet, with frontman and songwriter Sam Hales‘ slinky vocals teamed up with a whole lot of sexy reverb. It’s followed by the heart-wrenching Truth May Hurt, a track that starts off quietly and builds into a roaring monster, with the slow howl of Hales pleading “I know it sounds silly that I need her again // It’s my fault” erupting into a soaring wail. It’s bookended by the bluegrass twang of an acoustic tale of love gone bad, Devil’s In The Details, before jumping back into the high voltage indie winners with live favourite Skin To Bone.
The rest of the album coasts by on more of the same, pedalling sweetly through familiar territory around perhaps their best-known track She’s A Riot, leaving the listener feeling like they’ve just eaten some kind of high-class aural sandwich. And then album closer Home happens, possibly the finest track on the record. With its melancholy refrain of “I want to come back home”, it’s a gorgeous, laid-back piano-driven stroll and, once again, it shows that it’s in the darker tracks where this band really comes into their own.
These Queenslander wunderkinder deliver an almost international sound on Learn To Exist but, when they take some risks, The Jungle Giants truly sound like they could take on the world.
‘Learn To Exist’ is released this Friday, 30th August.