The Beautiful Girls

Cornerstone RAS, 2006


REVIEW BY: Melanie Love


I have such a strange fascination with the British. Maybe it’s because I’ve grown up in Los Angeles, but I want nothing more than to go to Oxford (even though my family so considerately laughs at me whenever I bring up the idea) and to stalk the remaining members of the Beatles through London.

But since I can hardly deal with temperatures going below fifty here in California, I may not be such an ideal transport. So let’s head to Australia instead, which, on the music end of things, has turned out some exports interesting enough to make me put down Keane and Arctic Monkeys and Muse for a second to give something new a listen.

The Beautiful Girls (made up of frontman Mat McHugh, drummer Mitch Connelly, bassist Clay McDonald and Felipe on harmonica) and their second US release, Water, draw freqent comparisons to tour mates Ben Harper and Jack Johnson (the band is now on its sixth stateside tour). Just listen to the swingy acoustic guitar and smooth vocals on the album’s opener, “Periscopes,” which would fit right alongside something like “Sitting, Waiting, Wishing” from Johnson’s my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 In Between Dreams.

Next up is “Morning Sun,” which combines a steadily grooving bassline and McHugh’s clear, slick vocals; the real strength of the song is in its lengthy guitar break, which gains power as it unfolds from a few single notes plucked in repetition to an up-tempo combo of pounding drums and electric soloing. Building upon a similar rhythm is “Clear Day,” which shines with lyrics like “And when the burning sun, it falls in my eyes, is when I come upon another sunrise / Well, I will walk alone ‘cause I’m not scared to die / in a clearer day in the sunshin.” McHugh’s vocals consistently remind me not of the aforementioned Jack Johnson but of another favorite of mine, Golden; despite the constantly shifting dynamics in their material, both bands’ frontmen manage to retain the signature warmth that helps make each song so listenable.

On its fourth track, Water switches things up with the infectiously upbeat “Goodtimes;” after a deceptively lazily paced intro, it dives straight into rapidly delivered lyrics and quick bursts of guitars. It’s a fun two-minute diversion, and it’s perfectly placed after the contemplative “Clear Day” and before the album’s bluesy title track.

Also worth a mention is the album’s sole instrumental interlude, “First Sign of Trouble;” featuring maracas and graceful, almost hypnotic layers of guitar, it’s easily one of the most captivating tracks on Water – that is, before they throw in a last punch of harmonica-tinged reggae to round things out on “Weight Of The World,” a song that sounds just as convincing as any of the earlier, more standard rock material which is surely another testament to their chameleon tendencies.

It’s no wonder these guys are a smash-hit in numerous countries. They’re entertaining without sacrificing any artistry to be so – and few bands since Aerosmith can throw in a harmonica and have it flow so easily. If this is what Australia is, then sign me out of Oxford and into the land down under.

Rating: B+

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© 2006 Melanie Love and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Cornerstone RAS, and is used for informational purposes only.