With their first full-length album, Learn Yourself, the
Australian-based Beautiful Girls show why they should not record a
second. This album is a melting pot of mediocre rap, reggae, roots
and funk. Despite a few instances of pretty instrumentation and
pleasing harmonies, this album has nothing new to offer. The
lyrics, while attempting to be deep and thought-provoking, prove to
be shallow and meaningless. Derivative and trite do not begin to
describe this uninteresting album. Through seeking to capture what
made Jack Johnson — who is thanked in the liner notes —
remotely interesting for a short while, the Beautiful Girls have
failed dismally, and demonstrated that even on their debut, their
sound is stale and exhausted.
The songs on the album that feature rapping are laughably bad.
This band is incapable of producing rap that would allow the
listener to take them seriously, as they cannot escape goofy
inflections and nasal delivery. The poor acoustic guitar
progressions in the background do not help their cause. The rhythm
is uninspired and choppy, thus making the songs difficult to listen
to. This is most noticeable on the tragic “Music,” on
which lead singer Matt McHugh ironically repeats the line, “I
got music / And it makes me feel alright … I got music / And
it takes away the pain.” It remains to be seen if this music
will do anything but the opposite of those bold claims.
On a few songs, when the band realizes they aren’t Public
Enemy, there is room for hope. The one bright spot is the song
“La Mar (The Ocean),” which reveals that given the
right material, McHugh’s voice can transcend the mediocrity
of Beautiful Girls’s weak genre. The bluesy background makes
this song at best good, and at worst, pleasant.
This small success is quickly forgotten, however, when the rest
of the album is digested. Instead of sticking to the low-key folksy
style that caters to the band’s strengths, they attempt to
make themselves much funkier than could ever be possible for these
archetypal white surfer dudes. The song “Cash Money”
represents a tremendous failure as the band tries to fuse their
style with a country-western tinge. The horrendous “Black
Bird” shows that this band cannot ever have anything remotely
resembling an edge to their music. The title track, “Learn
Yourself,” offers pseudo-religious imagery in the lyrics
mixed with high-school-level philosophical meanderings.
Despite their best efforts to produce something original and
valuable, Beautiful Girls have succeeded in doing exactly the
opposite. The songs are muddy and indistinguishable, with the whole
project lacking focus and direction.
Rating: 1 out of 5 stars