Quiet riot: The Jungle Giants rocked KL

The Jungle Giants frontman Hales attacks his guitar with a certain ferocity while maintaining a cheery demeanour. Photo: The Star/M. Azhar Arif

Too short. That would be the only indictment on Australian indie pop band The Jungle Giants’ set in Kuala Lumpur recently. Clocking at a paltry 45 minutes, there was almost a sense that the set ended in just about the time it took for the crowd to properly warm up.

Granted, the opening act – Aussie experimental pop artist Lia Mice, did a fabulous job of padding up the night with her delectable brand of chilled, spacey pop tunes, but as far as the main course was concerned, it felt a little under-served. Still, if you are a subscriber to the theology of “all killer and no filler”, then that was exactly what the band, consisting of Sam Hales (vocals/guitars). Cesira Aitken (guitars), Andrew Dooris (bass) and Keelan Bijker (drums), delivered to the 300-over revellers on the night.

The Jungle Giants specialises in a brand of indie pop that’s easy on the ears and friendly to shuffling feet. The band knocked out cut after cut of infectious danceable pop tunes, rarely stopping long for breaths and overtures, while keeping things at a supremely high energy level throughout the 45-minute set.

Dooris in particular was exciting to watch, making the most of fairly limited standing space to dance, sing backups, all while keeping the band’s simple but effective sound anchored with his tasteful runs.

Frontman Hales was a bundle of energy too, attacking his guitars strums with a certain ferocity throughout the set while maintaining a cheery demeanour that was very appropriate for the band’s sunshine pop sound.

In contrast, guitarist Aitken was all business, rarely looking up from her fretboard, giving her full concentration to the licks she was dishing out. This is where the magic really happens for The Jungle Giants — the tasty interplay between the jingle-jangle of one thirds of the band with Aitken’s riffs and melodic lines as the necessary garnish on the top as she toggles between tasteful jabs of chords and ear-stabbing harmonics with relative ease, doing just enough to get each song through the door.

Ultimately, the band is a rock band. There are no elaborate gimmicks, not even a synth in sight, just three guys and a girl on stage playing standard rock instruments. But yet the racket they produce is far more stretchable than limiting hard rock.

To create danceable indie pop purely on the back of tube amps and a crackling snare drum is no easy feat, yet The Jungle Giants seems to do it with such ease.

Single She’s A Riot was predictably the track that got the entire venue buzzing, a pacey and rambunctious four chord ditty that got the entire place (including an elderly couple in the left corner of the crowd) up on their feet and up in the air. The vibe of the track was fantastic, and infectious.

And while the rest of the cuts never quite reached the same heights, at certain points it felt like the band’s propensity for bright chords and silly melodies was inexhaustible. The goofy mid-tempo Mr Polite is ridiculously simple but it’s a song you can’t help but keep revisiting in your head. It’s a track that properly epitomises the band’s ethos – they keep things simple and effective, with the “Hey!” gang vocals in the chorus providing ample opportunity for crowd participation.

You’ve Got Something provides a glimpse into the more angular side of the band, with a driving beat melding together with post-punk guitars to create a song that provides a blueprint for the band if they are looking to head into an edgier direction.

The melody at times takes sinister turns, a far cry from the barnyard sing-along of tracks like Mr Polite but does add a grittier sheen to proceedings.

The Upfront gig series by The Bee in Kuala Lumpur continues to bring lesser indie bands from around the world to these parts and it’s a great thing. This was a rare opportunity to sample a band at the budding stages of something good.

The Jungle Giants may not be the finished product just yet, but they have laid a strong blueprint to build on. If only there was more for us to sink our teeth into on the night.

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