Unassuming Aussie Unaffectedness with a Dark Side
Beef Jerk are elevated slackers. A Sydney, Australia based outfit that toes the line of shambled, everyman indie-pop (or in Aussie speak, “Dolewave”), Beef Jerk are cool without the pretension. Channeling the down-under version of British blue collar humdrum, Tragic seems like something unaffecting at first glance – hell, even the cover looks like it was stolen from a catalogue that was mailed to your mother’s house addressed to ‘resident’. Beef Jerk (consisting of members Jack Lee, Michael Branson, Dean Adam and Jack Baxter) had initially released Tragic in a small run back in 2015, but now has polished things up and re-released the effort for a deservedly wider audience by Trouble In Mind (with a limited LP-only “fake vomit” colored vinyl no less). Tragic serves up 15 bite-sized snack tracks full of jangling guitars, steady percussion and ‘90s-guy vocals, occasionally infused with off key harmony and surprisingly catchy hooks.
Tragic is such an easy listen that it’s almost too easy, leaving the listener to wonder exactly how this Sydney outfit stands out with their unaffected, lazy-yet-burnished sound, puke-themed gimmicks and a band name only less difficult to search for than The Band – yet Beef Jerk summons subtle Blur, Total Slacker and Tapes N Tapes vibes, particularly with percussion and vocal delivery. Utilizing spiffed yet still semi-grainy production, Beef Jerk ‘s seemingly innocuous tracks are used to dive deeper into the layers of working class culture in Australia, touching on gentrification, the futility of a mundane existence and even alcoholic fathers.
First track “Rhythm Infection” starts off with an enticing, slightly nefarious spaghetti Western guitar before jumping straight into a stripped down, catchy pop song, while “French Dish” gives the listener some surprisingly jaunty synth toward the end that almost sounds like a piano bite from Yann Tiersen. “Soup of the Onion” is unassuming until it tosses a curve ball in the form of a drawling saxophone solo, and closer “Cotton” rambles on in a weirdly wise way before slowly fading out. “Move Into The Ocean” starts off like your typical head bobber – the type of track a depressed sophomore might put on the first day at a new school – and therein lies Beef Jerk’s charm. Childish, slightly bleak and somehow still tinged with hope.
Of the band’s debut effort, Beef Jerk’s bandcamp explains Tragic as “simultaneously championing and critiquing the seedier side of Australian culture and the human condition, stacking them on top of ramshackle riff after riff. Beef Jerk have created an album for those bruised and battered by life, but who carry on, despite the sting of broken dreams.” Simple yet well done enough to be cathartic, it will be intriguiging to see how Beef Jerk wields their insolent, unassuming intelligence next.