There are few feelings better than when you can back nepotism up with fact. I’ve made no bones of my love for Brisbane trio, Babaganouj, in the past, with the caveat that I was friendly with their guitarist. But in the past two years, it hasn’t even had to come up, as the group named after a dip has arguably become the best rock band in Queensland – and one of the best in Australia. This has not happened by accident. In the last twelve months alone, they’ve released three stellar EPs, written solely by each individual member of the band. Though they’re full of great ’90s-inspired anthems, there’s been a standout on every one. ‘Star’ is the latest, following on from ‘Sorry’ and ‘Do Rite With Me Tonight’. Though they were penned by other players, they’re all songs with stunner choruses. Babaganouj do many things well, but arguably their biggest strength is identifying hooks early and really making them sing by the time it’s recorded. ‘Star’ is the icing on the cake for me, one which helped solidify them as a band I love, rather than simply a band I know. It’s got all the ingredients of years of trial and error, and it comes together perfectly.
If the cover art is to be believed, much of the credit on ‘Star’ belongs to bassist and vocalist Harriette Pilbeam. As with most Babaganouj tracks, it’s never really a solo effort for long; all three band members frequently trade melodies and jump in for harmonies on their big moments, of which there are many. The song also marks the point where the band’s vision for their sound – a portmanteau of influences ranging from slacker rock to glam, indie and main stage pop – finally lines up with their production. ‘Star’ is a belter and it sounds like it; duelling, widescreen guitars, double-octave vocal tracking and a serious amount of drumming firepower. There’s not one element that isn’t mixed to perfection and ready to deploy at the right time, whether it’s extra jangle from Ruby or a white-hot, splashing crash off the back of a roll of floor tom. Babaganouj knock out songs fast, but this would have taken a while to get right and listening back to it, you really hear it. Whether it’s the syncopated hits at the end of every verse or the way Charles’ solo screeches into life just at the right time, it’s wonderfully visceral.
And after all the technical talk, that’s where the enduring charm of Babaganouj comes from. They really make you feel something every time you hit play, and for me, it’s that heady rush of being a teenager in love even though I’m a decade out from highschool. There are lots of bands trading on nostalgia but most of them disappear when it becomes obvious that they have far more focus on their aesthetic than songwriting. These guys have been going for years and rather than being a one-trick pony, they’re blossoming into a serious race-winning contender.
It sparkles, it shines and it’s got heart. You could mix worse things with your chips.