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Album Review: You Beauty’s ‘ILLYWHACKA’

Look, there’s a very short version of this review and its: God damn! You Beauty have done it again! But what kind of reviewer would I be if I left it at that? A shit one. So I’m going to look at their second LP ‘ILLYWHACKA’ in a bit more detail, ahead of its launch online today and general release tomorrow, Friday October 23.

You Beauty’s first concept album, ‘Jersey Flegg’ (2014), was a surprisingly emotional look at life on the footy field, following the unravelling world of a 90’s rugby league player after his children’s TV presenter girlfriend does the dirty on him. It was a flawless and endearing album, with resonating guitar melodies, driving drum beats and frank but utterly charming lyrics, and quickly put them in cult status among indie pub-rock lovers.   

‘ILLYWHACKA’ moves into different territory, that of the dark world of online dating, but still has the same pub-rock opera Australiana vibe. The story arc of a con-artist (or illywhacka) slowly falling in love with his online target, a much older woman named Dee, is told over the course of the album, with the character’s emotional roller-coaster following the rippling rhythm of the album. They manage to create an immersive, diverse, and touching album that at its heart, is a great example of some damn fine storytelling. Or in a more accurate colloquial term – they spin a great yarn.

The first track Strong Connection opens with the dial-up noise of everyone’s childhood/nightmares, and introduces us to the slick, charismatic online con-artist. The track is as smooth as the character and as he croons “let’s get your bank accounts” you can’t help but feel susceptible.  

The character is relentless to begin with, with tracks like Take Every Cent as forceful and driving as the con-artist’s heartless pursuit of money. His view of love and its manipulative quality is plain to see in the first single released from the album, Illywhacka, a shimmering and upbeat look at the “domestic mess” of relationships. He’s clearly been burnt before, but in true Australian underdog form, the illywhacka begins to show he isn’t as cold-hearted as he first seems.

The slow and sexy RnB inspired track Phone Job shows a different side for both the band and the character. With smooth harmonies and lines like “I’m coming to ya / to make peace with love”, the direction of the album takes a romantic turn.

The distinctive echo of You Beauty’s jangly guitar features throughout, giving the album that 80’s slacker rock vibe. They have been called “INXS when they were still a pub rock band” and they definitely have the air of undiscovered Australian icons: self-deprecating, modest, cheeky, and unapologetically straight-up. Their love of everything Aussie is a constant thread weaved through the album, with tracks like Tracy’s Tunite featuring the Australian institution A Current Affair.

 Everywhere I Wanna Go is definitely a highlight, featuring shouting vocals, a rapid hook and the sardonic Australian twang of lead singer Will Farrier’s voice. The storyline is rounded out with Can’t Say It, with more crooning harmonies, slow, melodious guitar and a romantic awakening for the character. He wants to tell Dee his true feelings, but now that he finds himself locked-up, it might be too late. He signs off with a poignant “love ya Dee” and you can’t help but feel for the guy.

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