You Am I : You Am I
During 2009 a rumour emerged that You Am I were planning on making their next full-length something outlandish. There was even word that the entire record could include a guest female on lead vocal duties. While things may not have ended up going that far, You Am I have delivered something that’s certainly unlike anything they’ve concocted before.
The making of the 'classic' YAI album has been something bandied about by fans and even the four-piece themselves for a good ten years. There’s the unmistakeable feeling, even on the first listen, that this – the fittingly self-titled album that is the ninth of their career – is what the band have been leading up to. Convicts (2006) and Dilettantes (2008) were mere precursors.
Will You Am I reach the Top 20 and see the band become something close to a household name like during the mid-‘90s when they were bathed in ARIA awards and could seemingly do no wrong? Most likely not. But at this point – 20 years into the outfit's career – it really doesn't matter. You Am I aren't the types to go chasing past glories. Tim Rogers could probably quite easily pen an album full of clones that sound like Junk, Get Up or Cathy's Clown, hoping one of the riffs sticks and gets picked up for a commercial, but that isn't what they're still around to do. The creation of songs that are thought-provoking and challenging seems to be of foremost importance.
You Am I is far from the most immediate of their records. In fact, it could leave even a few long-time devotees feeling slightly befuddled at first. Plenty of their trademark elements, such as Rogers’ constantly-surprising lyrical abilities, are intact. But there’s much more going on. The album is richly textured with layering effects and instrumentation not previously heard on any of their previous long-players.
That's not to say that there isn't material on this record that doesn't resemble the You Am I of old: The Good Ones is upbeat and full of positivity, much like what was heard on 2002's Deliverance; Pinpricks sounds like it could have been an outtake from Convicts; and towards the end of The Crime – a song that relishes in its own sense of space – we hear a chunky, distorted riff somewhat reminiscent of Jewels & Bullets.
However, it’s the most un-You Am I sounding tracks that stand out as the album’s pinnacle. Trigger Finger begins with a lounge-y bass riff accompanied by light bongo beats and guitarist Davey Lane incorporating an Ebow effect. This sound continues through the verse, almost completely free of any other guitar input, as Rogers sings in a register bordering on falsetto, before the chorus launches forth strongly with a single vocal line by the unmistakable Sydney lass Lanie Lane. If this song was recorded for any earlier You Am I album it would sound positively alien, but here it is absolutely perfect.
Elsewhere, Lie And Face The Sun – perhaps the closest thing on the disc resembling a 'radio single' – is a gorgeous, slightly morose mid-tempo tune with a guest appearance by Megan Washington, complimenting Rogers' delivery with her own smoky vocals. The finale, Let’s Not Get Famous, starts out with almost 45 seconds of sparse piano notes backed by a vague miasma of feedback before turning into a quiet, introspective classic that rivals How Much Is Enough? and The Piano Up The Tree as the band’s definitive album closer.
At a time when most of their peers from the ‘90s are either going through the motions, playing farewell tours or they’ve just faded away entirely, You Am I have released an album that not only innovates – it throws any preconceptions people hold about the band out the window. And it’s their strongest effort in at least a decade.
You Am I's self titled album You Am I is out now via Other Tongues