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It's strange, the things a man will hear in his own heartbeat when the mad, bad world of expectation and compromise is safely locked outside.

Listen. The Beautiful Girls have been a long time underground. OK, there was one tour of Brazil, the odd show here and there. But since Mat McHugh wound up touring his solo album, Seperatista!, in March 2009, he's been a virtual recluse, digging deep for new sound and meaning downstairs in his home studio on Sydney's northern beaches.

What he found surprised and thrilled him.

"The weird thing, is I don't even like much reggae," says the singer-songwriter and visionary of a radically evolving roots-rock ensemble that began infiltrating the world stage some seven years and four albums ago. "But the reggae I do like, I love, love, love."

The exotic passion that stirs the souls of Mat and his rhythm compadres, Paulie B and Bruce Braybrooke, begins to drip like some rare and potent elixir from the opening beats of their new album, Spooks.

Dig the spaced-out effects, skittering drums and dark blue horns of My Mind Is An Echo Chamber; the brash toasting and cops-and-rude-boys narrative of 10:10; the offbeat keys and dub undertow of Running.

The rich production and stylistic threads run deep, pure and almost mystically familiar — albeit a world apart from the ubiquitous Bob Marley borrowings of the Australian summer festival scenesters.

"I love the really early dancehall and rock steady stuff," says Mat. "It's as crusty and weird as early punk, to me. King Tubby, Johnny Osbourne . . . that's the more influential side of reggae, to me, the originators who led to the punky stuff like The Specials, The Clash, The Beat . . .

"When any style of music starts it’s a bit naïve and crusty and done completely out of passion and desire, instead of trying to fit into some scene or style. That early dancehall stuff is maybe one bass and a drum machine with some guy toasting over the top, but it's some of the coolest stuff you're ever gonna hear."

A similar spirit of naïve passion played a big role here, from the moment Mat began sampling Bruce's drums and piecing together rhythms under his own bass, guitars and keys. Unlike Learn Yourself (2003), We're Already Gone (2005) and Ziggurats (2007), Spooks was played almost exclusively by the songwriter over the aforementioned period of intense studio exploration.

"I look at the band as a co-operative," he says, "a group of friends and musos that I admire getting together and playing the songs that I write. I differentiate between live and studio. Live is where the guys come into their own and are SUPER important. But this recording was a radically different process."

Mat estimates that he discarded around 30 songs before they began to fall in the right direction. First to stick was the album's lead single, the edgy electric party starter, Don't Wait. Next was the brassy dub number, Rockers!, inspired by his love of the 1978 Jamaican film of that name. Then the work began.

"It was the hardest, most involved thing I've ever done," he says. "For the best part of the year I was piecing it altogether. It was monstrous, all-consuming. I didn't see anyone. I was up at nine o'clock and some days down there until two in the morning. I should have made 10 albums."

Except that distilling it all down to 11 tracks made for a far more focused and compelling album when the band decamped to Jim Moginie's Oceanic Studios to add brass, backing vocals and other embellishments. Spooks was mixed by Ian Pritchett, another constant thread though the band's changing ranks.

Lyrically, "the theme of the record is a bit more personal this time," says Mat. "Whereas Ziggurats was more outward looking, a bit more angry in a way, this one is more about stuff close to me. There's been a huge shift in my life. I got engaged, I feel a really strong sense of home now."

The eight-minute, two-part trip of Home/ Family is the obvious heart of the matter. There's also the intimate ukulele tune B Some Melody, a tender promise of better days, and the introspective acoustic finale, My Latest Mistake, "the first song I’ve recorded in 3/4 time," says Mat. "It's basically owning up to being a constant fuckup — but hopeful things will be OK."

Things look better than OK for the Beautiful Girls.

"I see us really heading somewhere with this record," says Mat. "It's only now that I'm getting happy with where it is, getting into our own space, really being worthy of having people come to our shows.

"Onstage I'm looking forward to going really big and three-dimensional. I want to step beyond being just a band performing and have some really interesting sonic stuff going on. There's a lot of crazy atmospheric stuff happening on the record: weird, subtle things. I want to include it all.

"The band has got to a certain place in its career, here and around the world, where I feel we're grown men and we have the responsibility to present exactly what we're into in the best way we possibly can. So here it is.”


released May 25, 2010



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Track Name: My Mind Is An Echo Chamber
see, i feel so lost without you
without you near to me
see, i feel so cold without you
without you here to see
this world keep spinning
‘round it’s orbit here in space
and, each time i look around
i swear i see your face
i see your face...
and, i know at times i’ve tested your patience,
hurt your soul
but never have i suggested we ever let this go
now i miss you more than you could ever realise
and, if i could take it back, i promise you i’d try

tell you we could make it matter,
tell you we could make it good.
i’ve got a heart that’s made to shatter,
maybe that’s the way it should.
see, i know this world get’s crazy,
well i lost all self control.
where are you to come to save me,
when i need you here to hold?

oh my mind is an echo chamber
Track Name: 10:10
hold up,
listen to this...
whether you’re a rude boy or a true hotshot,
whether you rock-steady or you punk rock,
you must live it up with all that you’ve got.

this is sydney
this is london
this is tokyo
this is los angeles

rudy, don’t care about the colour of your skin
rudy, don’t care about the money that you spend
red, black or white, there is no colour to your soul
original, rude boy, control!
it’s all the same in the dancehall lots
it’s all the same in the typical spots
here in the city, don’t step, get busy
young life cut short with the two gunshots
it’s 10:10

(chorus) so, rudy, come home
i need to see you
do you feel alone like i feel it too?
don’t you be no saint, burn up in the sun
go walking away,
loaded like a gun.

rudy walked into the wrong place at the wrong time
knew he would not leave the building with his life
see the wrong man, pull the trigger, then they go
we’d call the cops but they move too slow
we reminisce on the dancehall days

back on the streets not a thing has changed
we keep fighting, still youths keep dying
drying tears under helicopter blades


yes, we must all clear our hearts
of the hatred and the prejudice
and be done judging a man
by the colour of his dress
in amongst all the push and the pull
the imbalance and the stress
is a basic humanity of from
which we shall never digress

Track Name: Home/Family
so, tell me, when will the morning come?
when will this long cold night be done?
we’ll be free, like shadows run from the sun
see, lately, been feeling we’re so far...

away from home
away from where we started from
away from where there’s soul,
there’s air, there’s sea
only place could feel like home to me

caught lying here, in the silence, breathing slow
lost in the dreams that define the way we go
there’s better things in the both of us you know
than we see,
been running for so long...

away from home
away from where we started from
away from where there’s soul,
there’s air, there’s sea

only place could feel like home to me
in some ways feel like we’ve been on
this journey for way too long
when some days slip past out of focus
before we hold they’re gone
got one thing left to carry me forward
i keep on my way to you
the moment we stand strong,
the moment we be one
we’ll hold up our heads be true

like families do...
like families do.

when the light fades,
the colours all escape,
i’ll still see you in my mind.
all this world takes
won’t ever make me break

i’ll stay ‘til it’s you i find.
we’ll be something,
go show all of them why
we’ll make it the way we do
took all this to be right
took all this to realise
that all that i need is you...
like families do
Track Name: Running
you come around say ‘i need you’
you come around say ‘i need you’ would you
come be with me would you want to?
come be with me would you want to?
would you?

up in the morning and the rain keeps falling.
home in the evening and you’re still not calling.
we try to move, but we keep on falling down,

and, all these things that we don’t say
and, all these things that we don’t say, won’t say
when will we see it’s the wrong way?
when will we see it’s the wrong way?
there’s way

too many reasons to ignore this surely.
i’m bound to tell you how i feel so poorly.
but i’m over running with this same old story now.

and i’ve been running with my sights on you
and i’ll keep running ‘til this day gets through
i got no money on me, yes that’s true
we just keep running
we get up in the morning and we walk outside
this world we’re living in is just no run, no hide
they never would believe me if i say we tried
we just keep running
Track Name: After All This Time
‘romeo’ said juliette,
‘could you take me away from this?’
‘juliette’ said romeo,
‘i wish i could but i don’t think so.
i’ve tried to run other times before,
but this world always seemed too small.
and, oh my my,
they’ll steal it all from you,
but let me help you to sing...’

so, juliette grabbed romeo
ran to the car, said ‘c’mon let’s go,
let’s not let them tell us what to do, no more’
up in the glovebox a 45
ain’t no plan but to stay alive
in a moment, rolled up on that liquor store
and she’s singing

after all this time,
i’m still yours and your still mine.
after all this time

propped at a bar down in mexico
love in the sunshine
no ghosts, no phone
juliette says ‘i love you romeo’
she takes his hand, puts it on her side
says ‘try and guess what there is inside?
i know we planned to wait but, well, surprise..’
oh no, sing

after all this time
i’m still yours and you’re still mine
after all this time...
we just keep on running
Track Name: Don't Wait
nobody move, nobody get hurt
girl you will kill me wearing that skirt
somebody sink, somebody get high
somebody see it with their own two eyes
don’t say you love me then go to leave me in the morning
don’t say you need me if you’ve got nothing here for me
wanna hit the party but you might wanna head for home
we’re only playing dub
we don’t play rock and roll

so scandalous
no philanthropist
i can’t handle this
girl will tell me if you’re
wanting to dance to this
and romance and hold
maybe chance and fold
maybe it’s even in the way
that we take it home
and we break inside
it’s too late to hide 
when every single one of us is the same we tried
all the plans to be
all the ways to see
when all we ever found was that it was just a dream
don’t wake me up
don’t wait for me

one in the morning, some typical nights
two in the morning, some typical sights
three in the morning, surrender control
four in the morning, let the bass take hold
girl, they could take all that we have and i’d never notice

girl, they could break off every plan, count every vote
it’s never ending anyway you look at it
but, you know
we ain’t gonna make it far if we don’t ever go

so scandalous
no philanthropist
i can’t handle this
girl will tell me if you’re
wanting to dance to this
and romance and hold
maybe chance and fold
maybe it’s even in the way
that we take it home
and we break inside
it’s too late to hide 
when every single one of us
is the same we tried
all the plans to be
all the ways to see
when all we ever found was
that it was just a dream

don’t wake me up
don’t wait for me
up on a beat so scandalous
no, don’t wait for me.
Track Name: Gratitude
some, they keep living with no gratitude
too busy straightening their three piece suits
count all their money in a mixing pot
don’t see, the more you’ve got, the more you want
and you will never ever have the lot, no

each day we live it is on borrowed time
give you my love, i wanna walk that line.
some say the writing on the wall is drawn
is it the more you give?
or the more you take?
because you better know what side you’re on.
so, come on,

you’re just too rude, you’re just too rude
this is my gratitude
‘see, some they get lost in the scrap for the dough.
equating all the paper they have with their soul.
too busy counting up all the things that they own,
or tipping up their cups and announcing a toast.
cold rollin’ in a lexus or mercedes benz
chillin’ with their hair slicked back, collars in
go rock the body kit with the 20 inch rims
or hit the dancefloor,
pray the ladies bend, bend.
and, see by now i know what you’re all gonna say,
that who the hell am i to be judging this way?
well, in my own defence, i would just like to say
that, son, like a sucker you will surely get played.
and, if it’s by your girl, or your friends or some dude,
it’s just it’s incorrect where you put your values,
you won’t get no respect with ya bad attitude,
don’t even try begin,
boy, you’re just too rude.
you’re just too rude...
Track Name: B Some Melody
girl, you and i we both know something
about this situation must change
live on an island or maybe, someday
we’ll wake under the pouring rain

we’ll sail in a rocky boat on the sea
we’ll count all the stars fall, you and me
in everything hear some melody

these arms of mine,
they yearn to hold you to me
we’ll be lonely no more
two castaways lost drifting slowly
to be washed on some distance shore

we’ll sail in a rocky boat on the sea
we’ll count all the stars fall, you and me
in everything hear some melody

so, b let’s not ever get old
there’s just too many do as they’re told
let’s just live, let’s just love and be bold
oh, b let’s not ever get old
Track Name: Rockers (Downtown Upstyling)
rockers in the morning time
rockers in the evening time
rockers on the beat this time
rockers in the room take over

born in the middle of a vacant lot
way out on the edge of town
crows in a murder, nursing broken wings, set me to the ground
while off in the distance, in the city lights,
played all those pretty sounds
once, in a dream i had,
i’d been grown up,
made me a big name uptown

oh lord
lord, do you hear me now? (x2)
play me that rockers sound 

killed every bar and dancehall in town
cold heart like a switchblade knife
rewind the beat a minute, bring in the bass

better run for your life
bring in the echo,
the rhythm,
the treble.
keep on stepping away
from all the blood, the dust,
the gunshots
don’t stop
let the music play

oh lord
lord, do you hear me now? (x2)
play me that rockers sound 

and i can feel it coming in the air tonight, oh lord
and i’ve been waiting for this moment all my life, oh lord

we just keep on pushing up
we just keep on pushing up 
we just keep on pushing up
we just keep on pushing forward
Track Name: My Latest Mistake
here is my latest mistake
seems i confess every day
and, lately nothing has changed

but i just want to let you know
i’ll be sorry if you go,

here is the day that we slide
down this mountain side
this life there’s nowhere to hide

and i don’t want to let you go
maybe we could just go home?

this waiting’s too much
how i wish my heart was strong enough
now look what we’ve done
we’re so far away from where we begun
i’d hold you so close but i’m too scared to hope
that we could maybe be ok
that’s too much to change,
but anyway
let’s just get through tonight
let’s just get through