You Beauty’s 2014 album Jersey Flegg is so Aussie it hurts. Named after a rugby player who shares a name with a NSW rugby trophy, the album is local in its lyrical and musical references, the accents of the singers and the attitude of the band.
The album begins in the classic vein of artists starting an album with a song with an eponymous track. “Jersey Flegg” is something of a mission statement for the band – the propulsive-yet-ramshackle band and the intense-yet-laidback singing set up the feel of the album as a whole, while the subject matter of pregame shows and rugby tournaments set up the loose concept of the album.
“Mennal Mondays”, next track covers the time honoured subject matter of not enjoying Mondays. Once again the bass is prominent, a mixture of taut 80’s postpunk and ramshackle, almost surfish vibes. The instrumentation is simple and lean, yet still somehow feels chaotic, like it could all dissolve into white noise at any minute.
“Scent of My Youth” continues the rugby concept, and the nostalgia of the track will resonate with anyone who spent their Saturday mornings scrambling around in the mud in school-team sports games. The track also sets up the dynamic of the father-son relationship, with the critical but loving father watching over his son, even when the game is over. The album is overall extremely nostalgic in my opinion – most of the songs contain a longing for what has been, or what could be, whilst also discussing the reality of life as a young person. “Scent of My Youth” is a highlight, a song that on its surface is straightforward in its lyrics, but which contains a subtle emotional resonance about father-son relationships.
The following two tracks cover a more conventional topic of modern songwriting. “Ann Marie” and “Now Her Skirt” continue the musical mashup of Joy Division-esque postpunk grooves and warbling guitar, while the singing is once again thick on the Aussie accent, with lyrics that are sentimental and longing.
The rugby theme becomes less and less prominent in the remaining songs on the album, but it pops up often enough to the extent that rugby can be said to be a lyrical motif for childhood, disappointment, and occasionally victory. The most striking use of this motif is the comparison between being unlucky in love and “playing down in reserves” on “Healin’ Spirit”. The final song, “Off the Bench”, signals the return of the narrator to both his sport and his life – the passivity and longing of the previous songs becomes an assertive positivity.
In short, “Jersey Flegg” manages to combine the tautness of postpunk bass with a laidback Aussie attitude, and a nuanced set of lyrics. Check this out before you listen to their follow-up record Illywhacka, which was released the following year and only served to strengthen their sound.
Jersey Flegg and Illywhacka are available now.