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The Beautiful Girls make down-home sounds Down Under

click to enlarge The Girls, interrupted  by their masculinity.
  • The Girls, interrupted by their masculinity.

Different stories abound, but one wonders if the Barenaked Ladies chose their name in hopes of enticing concertgoers into a venue via tantalizing marquee alone. Certainly, the countless bar bands named Free Beer try to capitalize on this cheap trick.

But when Australian native Mat McHugh named his band The Beautiful Girls a four-piece comprised of scrappy, surfer-looking dudes he wasn't interested in deceit. He was roused to affirm the feminine.

"You can't have music without masculine and feminine, like life," McHugh says. "When you're young, you want to learn all the Metallica songs because you want to rock hard. It's a soundtrack to the onset of puberty. Some never grew out of that."

Don't misunderstand: The Beautiful Girls' blend of reggae, rock and Delta blues is not typically feminine. There is, however, a certain tenderness and emotional immediacy to the sound that belies any machismo associated with rock music.

What's more, any preconceived notions listeners associate with Australian music must be discarded. The derigidoo is a no-show, replaced with a harmonica. The Beautiful Girls are more comparable to American musicians like Ben Harper and Jack Johnson than anyone aboriginal.

"America's very influential," says McHugh. "You don't really want to bypass your Australian identity to be like the people you see on TV. There's a lot of good Australian hip-hop, but a lot of the guys dress in their Rocawear. It's just an appropriation of what they see on TV. That's not necessarily a good thing.

"There's things that impede your progress, as far as developing your own cultural identity, if you just latch on to someone else's."

McHugh describes Australian sound as "unhinged," "raw" and "reckless," owing much to a prevalent frontier mentality Down Under. And that attitude carries into musical exploration.

"In America, everything is very niche-market," he says. "You're either a reggae band or you're a punk band or you're a rock band or you're a hip-hop act. In Australia, those boundaries don't exist as much."

And those boundaries don't exist for The Beautiful Girls, either. On their most recent release, We're Already Gone, songs ebb and flow from a reggae-dub sound to crunchy, deep-bass Delta blues to quieter, rhythmic folk.

The Beautiful Girls have had offers from major labels in Australia and the States, but have chosen to go it alone. Over complimentary lunches, record company reps have indicated they'd dictate the band's musical direction, rather than let it unfold naturally.

"It's all about demographics and what song's going to fit on a certain radio format and whatever. It doesn't leave any room for any emotional investigation," McHugh says.

Despite knowing that success in America the "entertainment Mecca," as McHugh refers to it means near-certain success back home, playing music and "eking a career" are The Beautiful Girls' humble goals.

"We just decided to take the risk and invest our own money and come over and just start touring. We pretty much go from the grassroots level, from the ground up, and just play and play and play, like any kind of up-and-coming American band."

Josh Johnson

capsule

Yellow Snow Tour featuring The Beautiful Girls, Mishka and Teton Gravity Research Movie

The Black Sheep,

2106 East Platte Ave.

Sunday, March 12, 8 p.m.

Tickets: $8 in advance, $10 day of show; call 227-7625

or visit ticketweb.com.

  • The Beautiful Girls make down-home sounds Down Under

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