Hunting Grounds are a Ballarat six-piece who used to be known as Howl back when they were a bunch of kids who’d just won the “Unearthed High” competition. The old name was apt when they were delivering loud and bratty teenage kicks on their Brothers in Violence EP, but they’ve changed since then. They discovered the magic of putting keyboards on everything and hitting the big pedal button marked “MORE ECHO”, while putting aside some of their heavier and grungier elements.
But only some of them. Their debut album In Hindsight still features songs like ‘Kill My Friends’, a thrashy and punky anthem about not giving a fuck. It sounds like The Vines wish they sounded, building to an explosive shout-along finale. Elsewhere, they’re rocking harmonies like The Beach Boys and every band who has ever wanted to sound like them, which suits their three vocalists well. The opening title track does it the Animal Collective way, with metronomic guitar and echoing vocals, while ‘Mind Decays’ is sweeter and less lugubrious. ‘Flaws’ is one of many songs on the album to benefit from some “oooeeeooo” backing vocals. The lyrics may be vague (“You’re changing in the sun/Shit’s begun”), but it’s irrelevant when things are this breezy and lively.
On ‘Liquid Air’ the keyboard sounds like lasers while on ‘Cold Feet’ [ed. not a Jack Ladder or Liam Finn cover] there’s more emphasis on threatening bass before the keys start vamping their way in, building to a violent climax. (I’m trying to come up with a label for grunge with synth – grynth? sunge?)
In Hindsight finds Hunting Grounds in a moment of transition, but it’s a transition between two sounds they’re equally adept at, and any roughness in the joins has been smoothed over by layers of reverb. In fact, there’s so much reverb part of me wonders what it would sound like if you took it away. Would it be like that time when Bill Bailey demonstrated a catastrophic technical failure at a U2 gig?
by Jody Macgregor