Triangulate the geographical locations of Kogarah Oval, Belmore Sports Ground and Toyota-Shark-Ashley-Madison Park and you get the precise latitude and longitude combination of the grassy knoll that overlooks Blaxland Reserve, Illawong; the ideal vantage point to watch thy beloved Holy Family Colts get pummelled by the bluer collars of local rivals, the Menai Roosters. Circa before Rubert Murdoch bought MySpace and drove it into the ground. Before such tackles were banned. And long before Rupes did something similar to the beautiful game of rugby league. Guns N Roses' over-theatrical opus, Use Your Illusion II, is in the cassette deck. The ears and eyes have completely different experiences here. Different needs. The continual progression of art and the primitive nature of competitive violence-based activities operate on different courses. There's no foreseeable historical moment or bizarre parallel universe where these two will ever merge.
Of course, it now feels silly to even doubt the inevitable amalgamation of music and this golden era of rugby league, given humankind's ineluctable passion for reflection over reconstruction. But back then I was knee-high to a Preston Campbell, with the symbolic naivety of a suburban bowl-shaped haircut and, of course, knew nothing of nostalgia — a notion which has seemingly been given even greater prominence as time has passed. Or maybe we're all just getting older. Either way, escaping to another moment in history, a discernibly simpler existence, is seemingly becoming an increasingly desirable starting-point for musical endeavours.
But Jersey Flegg goes even further than this. It's perfectly disconnected from the present, actually existing within it's setting (the suburbs of 1990's Australia) rather than simply glancing back in the general direction of that specific time and place with sentimental fondness.
This is achieved through the album's unified theme. Yes, Jersey Flegg is a 'concept record'; and although in modern times the application of that label has been stretched out beyond it's original strict parameters, this record embodies the truest and most pure sense of the descriptor, whereby the creators are completely disengaged from the lyrical content. Instead this lyrical space is dedicated solely to the life and times of a single character — a down-and-out, former rugby league star. Our unnamed anti-hero has fallen in love with a television soap/pop star, he's been dropped down to reserve grade, he's hit the sauce. He's done. He's not the legend he seemed destined to be.
The quirkiness and uniqueness of this centrical topic will always be enough to get folks through the gates, but keeping them interested, deep into the second half once the beer taps have run dry, the southerly storm has rolled in from Stanwell Tops and the sausage roll lady has called it a day due to a blown generator, well, that's a whole other kettle of sea snakes from the once-pristine, now heavily polluted, Parramatta River.
But the vibrant pop tenacity of Jersey Flegg compliments, and often even outdoes, it's own unusual subject matter. Musically, it's tighter than Steve Renouf's head-gear and/or Dale Shearer's magnificent off-field hair-piece, dominated by short and sharp jolts of mathy tropicalia that immediately conjure up memory reels of Dean "The Dasher" Treister scurrying from dummy half. Similarly, it's all up-front-and-in-ya-mug like DT's infamous scrum banter. With this neatly cut, up-tempo backdrop, there's plenty of space out on the flanks for flying winger/vocalist, Will Farrier (formerly of Ohana, currently of Absolute Boys and Home Travel), to dart around like a goose without a head (ie. Kev Walters strutting across the backline, pissing out of the side of his shorts and throwing half-cooked dummies in the general direction of Willie Carne). With touch footy-like weaving, Farrier has our full attention, bending his vocals as the often-defensive composition slides across to cover the empty space.
For the most part — via their own online promotion and initial live performances — You Beauty have seemingly taken a fairly light-hearted approach to this record and it's central theme. Considering the other more serious projects the band members are involved in, this could be simply a logical tactic for immediate differentiation as much as anything else. But I wonder if that approach also devalues the true heart of the album's content. Whilst intricate rugby league knowledge might be a requirement for understanding large segments of this review, it's not a prerequisite for enjoying this album. Hopefully, the southern states, where sporting patrons like their football with more knock-ons and a fairly prominent Gaelic twist, are still able to appreciate the pain, love and hope contained amidst the tales of lower-grade failures, sideline parental sledging and Ray Warren life-coaching. As these secondary themes, much like those sporting the numbers 11 and 12 on their backs, are just as important as the slightly more prominent, up-front novelty aspects of this album.
Download this album for FREE over on Bandcamp.