My younger brother and I used to run a music blog. Back in the glory days of 2009, when Hungry Kids of Hungary started blitzing the radio with sparkling singles, this made us a Pretty Big Deal. We had inboxes overflowing with indie artists and publicists of all stripes asking us to write about them, and we spent many hours scouring now-defunct mp3 sites and aggregators, hunting for amazing new tunes to honour on our very poorly designed but widely read website. Having Hungarian ancestry means any pitch about this band was always going to attract our attention, but the funny part is we were both already talking about them.
Australian guitar-based music, if we can reduce it to that, operates on something of a five-year cycle. There’s a point every decade when the music press absolutely salivate on the idea of a tight band writing catchy songs and there were a lot of them in contention around the time Escapades arrived. There was a lot of money and even more hype flying about groups like Little Red, Mercy Arms, The Jezabels, British India and The Temper Trap. In Brisbane, where Hungry Kids formed, new blood like John Steel Singers, Yves Klein Blue Violent Soho and Ball Park Music were all making serious noise. It was an incredibly tough market and era in which to cut through.
It is simply not by luck that this quartet of avowed non-Habsburgs managed to do it so consistently. For a start, their songs were better. Whether galloping off into the sunset on ‘Wristwatch’, handclaps and guitars at the ready, or laying down bossa grooves and sweet lead lines on ‘Set It Right’, Hungry Kids set themselves apart almost immediately as a band that could switch into almost any mode and crush it. While some of their peers came across like they’d had some good ideas and decided to learn instruments to help record them, Hungry Kids were tight from the outset. Everyone in that band could play. You could hear it from the drumkit all the way up to the microphone. Silly name, serious business.
Escapades was far and away my favourite record from this amazing time for local music, and it’s also held up extremely well. The harmonies are brilliant. The songwriting is phenomenal. It’s what a rock band that has been gigging the circuit for a few years is supposed to sound like, the culmination taking singles on the road, figuring out how to recalibrate them and then building even better new tracks around them.
It’s also an album with an unbelievable amount of singles. There was one point where it felt like you could hear almost half of it on rotation on triple j, which is likely down to the fact that these songs all sounded so distinct. The joy of Escapades, though, was discovering that even the deep cuts felt like your new favourite song. When we did feature Hungry Kids on our long-extinguished blogspot, we chose a track from the back end of the record called ‘China Will Wait.’ It sounds like glam-rock by way of Ben Folds Five. It’s bombastic, gloriously seething and even though it’s punctured by guitars, it’s a piano stomper at heart.
Ultimately, that’s what I love about Hungry Kids; they never forgot the importance of melody. You can grip onto every part of this record and sing along to it within seconds. Pulling this off without producing predictable, vanilla music is a particularly difficult thing to do. Belters like ‘Coming Around’ sound as great today as the day they were released. Ditto the falsetto sweetness of ‘You Ain’t Always There’, a star turn for the band’s frankly overachieving rhythm section.The age of content overload has made it difficult to remember stuff you loved in the past. We are served new music at Mach 3 speeds and without having it physically, it’s almost impossible to also have a handle on everything. This is the first time Escapades has been released on vinyl, and it’s my hope that it reignites your relationship with this excellent band and album, but also all the others you once lined up to see. Maybe you’ve started or joined a family, and you can introduce them to it. Whatever your reason for grabbing this record, you’re in for a treat. Trust me on this one; I used to be a blogger.