The Beautiful Girls



by RandyfromPennywise USER (34 Reviews)
May 31st, 2007 | 8 replies

Release Date: 2007 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The Beautiful Girls have finally done it. They have delivered on their promise and released an album that combines the strongest elements of their previous releases while expanding far beyond anything they’ve attempted before.

Ziggurats is without question The Beautiful Girls’ most ambitious project to date, as they have actively sought to take themselves out of their comfort zone. The Sydney-based three-piece have been doing chilled, acoustic folk-rock for years, and for the most part, they’ve been doing it well. But it’s fair to say that none of their previous releases went beyond anything other than “good”. While their ability to pen a brilliant track or two per album (see “Periscopes” and “Learn Yourself”) has been obvious and probably their saving grace, Ziggurats offers up 40 minutes full of compelling, emotive harmonies and alluring, catchy hooks, over anything from reggae to rock.

The band’s most successful songs, such as Periscopes, have helped what has been described as the Australian revival and movement of acoustic and roots music. Front-man and the only original member of the band remaining, Mat McHugh, was quoted as saying, “Fuck that, we don’t want to be part of any movement!”, and this largely sums up both the attitude of the band and the approach of this album. They have revelled in their underground success, building and maintaining a small yet loyal fan base, and leaving their media exposure to Triple J and not much else. And while Ziggurats expands on the surf-rock, rootsie base, it distinguishes itself in terms of quality, ambition and consistency. You get the feeling that it’s going to be hard for these guys to stay underground for too much longer.

The most striking aspect of Ziggurats is the undeniable rock influence that defines this new direction for the band. While the previous influences of Bob Marley and Ben Harper are still prevalent, the new direction owes more to the likes of The Police and Midnight Oil. And it is The Police who are channelled most consistently and strikingly. The rhythm section is defined by the cautious verses and rolling choruses that were perfected by the British trio. The album-opener Royalty owes much to Gordon Sumner and his band in this most obvious statement of intent. The flowing vocal line of “Royal-tee-oh-oh-oh” leads both the track and album superbly, while the obvious ska influence is manifest in the verses with the upstroke guitar and the stuttering bass line. It’s a fitting opener which sets the tone (rock-inspired brilliance) for the album and the sentiment of the band’s new direction.

One of the most attractive aspects of the The Beautiful Girls sound is McHugh’s vocals. I’ve heard them described as “deliciously melodic”, and that’s probably not far from the mark. McHugh’s voice is almost the perfect voice for the type of music TBG play. It floats around somewhere above the music it leads yet stays intrinsically tied to it. McHugh’s voice interplays superbly with the simple, subtle layers to the The Beautiful Girls sound, a concept enhanced and developed on Ziggurats. I Thought About You combines all of the band’s best elements - including McHugh’s vocals - into three minutes of reggae-rock brilliance. It’s the perfect choice as the lead single, as it embodies the new direction of the band, and the fact that it’s one of the best songs from the album doesn’t hurt either. The sound is full, the guitars are heavier and the chorus is as catchy as anything you’ll hear. “I thought about you, You thought about me, I thought about all the things we’d ever be.” The Muse-esque fuzzy bass works effectively with the upstroke guitar, and the sharp guitar leads in the post-chorus give the track some drive and energy.

However good the lead single might be, it’s arguably outdone by the sublime Bring Me Your Cup. The rolling, keyboard-driven reggae verses provide a fitting platform for McHugh to sing one of the nicest love songs of the year. The vocal line is yet again catchy as ever, and the lyrics are typically simple and effective. The surprising use of a saxophone in the break highlights the diversity of the album and the development of the band. It’s a mellow, relaxed number that is reminiscent of early The Beautiful Girls, in the best possible way. “I’ve got the bottle, Bring me your cup, Pop the cork… When you’re empty, I’ll fill you up.” It is this middle-section of the album where Ziggurats comes in to its own. After two impressive songs, a typical The Beautiful Girls album would fall away and the rest of the tracks would largely become anonymous. Not on Ziggurats. The upbeat, acoustic-driven Spanish Town and Under A Southern Sky give the album some much needed consistency and help set Ziggurats apart from (and above) any other The Beautiful Girls release.

The flowing, heavier rock of the choruses in Underneath A Southern Sky is part of what has formed this new label for the trio of ‘rock’, as they continue to move away from roots and acoustic surf-rock. The opening 30 seconds of Generals sounds like it could have been lifted directly from a The Police record. Seriously, the similarities are profound. The chorus sounds more like a pre-chorus, as it threatens to build-up to an end point which never arrives. In Love and She’s Evil again show why Ziggurats is above all a solid album, and certainly the band’s best. While nondescript and clearly not nearly as impressive as I Thought About You or some of the tracks on the first half of the album, they are still decent songs that - crucially - can actually hold your interest. That has been the major downfall of TBG in the past; too many of their songs failed to distinguish themselves at all and were, if truth be told, not worth a second listen. But Ziggurats shows that the band does have the ability to write a consistent full-length release, as opposed to an average album with a couple of great tracks.

Taking the bold step of markedly changing the sound and direction of the band, The Beautiful Girls have nothing to regret - they’ve nailed it. Not only have the results of their experimentation been superb, they’ve cemented their reputation as one Australia’s most talented independent bands. While previous albums have offered up one or two stellar tracks, Ziggurats has matched the band’s entire back-catalogue in terms of outstanding tracks. It’s head-and-shoulders above any of their previous work and sets the stage for them to go on and achieve just about anything. With Ziggurats they’ve released one of the best independent Aussie albums for 2007, at the very least.

Recommended tracks:

I Thought About You
Bring Me Your Cup
Under A Southern Sky

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user ratings (13)

Comments:Add a Comment 
May 31st 2007


Album Rating: 4.0 - it won't load for me but I assume there are some tracks from this album on that page.

EDIT: I don't know if their myspace is working, but you can hear "I Thought About You" on their homepage, it starts playing automatically: www.thebeautifulgirls.comThis Message Edited On 05.31.07

June 12th 2007


Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

This album is a cracker.

This by far surpases their previous album.

June 12th 2007


Album Rating: 4.0

Yep, certainly agree. It's an album that I will listen to in the future because it's so good, which is something I can't really say for their previous albums - yes I will listen to certain songs, but not albums. Here, the album is strong.

June 12th 2007


Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

I like the way they have progressed with their sound.

A lot punchier & darker.

June 12th 2007


The album title makes me want to watch Rugrats. Great review, I might check this out.

June 12th 2007


Album Rating: 4.0

Sam - yeah it's a real progression, and probably what they needed - they still do what they've always done, and do it well, but now they do about 5 other styles as well. Very good band now, after this album. I'm going to see them next month, should be interesting, after seeing them on new years when they played all their old stuff.

MeowMeow - definitely check it out, really chilled but rockin stuff.

dub sean
June 21st 2007


Album Rating: 3.5

just got this

really good stuff

August 1st 2007


This band has never done it for me, and when i saw them at a festival once they were terrible. Since then I've been unable to listen to them. Nice review though.

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