Twelve years on, the release of their fifth album, Dancehall Days, is miles away from the Jack-Johnson-esque comparisons of that bygone era and the Sydney trio continue to bask in the summery, mellow-dub vibe they’ve come to call their own.
There’s no messing about in acknowledging the 4 year break since 2010’s Spooks. The Beautiful Girls Are Dead? kicks off the album with about as much attention as the guys would care to give all those questions over their hiatus… 24 seconds! It’s an odd starter as a Buddhist chant that sounds more like some sort of satanic didgeridoo, setting a sombre tone that’s quickly overturned by the upbeat electronica of Until My Kingdom Comes. An amalgamation of musical influences on this track has been summed up by brain-child Mat McHugh himself as sporting ska and soul RnB influences, the latter particularly evident through an idiosyncratic clapping sample that permeates throughout.
As expected, incessant reggae-beats are often the canvas for fickle chord progressions, honoring the established sound of the band. Rich horns underpin most tracks and the progression of recent albums to new heights of electronica is continued here. But there’s a bit of a disco thing happening as well, combined with what sound like little samples from video game sound effects. It’s an eclectic experiment that for the most part works well and sets the album apart from it’s predecessors in The Beautiful Girls’ catalogue slightly.
From the shamelessly cringey pop of Real Love with it’s Caribbean influences to the dance-party anthem of Survival, Dancehall Days is equal parts mellow summer chill-out and edgy warehouse soirée. The fact that it’s a crowd-funded effort speaks volumes of the love for these guys and it’s an easy, feel-good listen that’ll satisfy devotees of their unique brand.