You Am I is a legendary Australian band that played their first live show in 1990 and has been churning out full-volume guitar rock ever since. They've toured with Soundgarden and Oasis and have played gigs with The Who and The Rolling Stones. Down Under, they've had three No. 1 albums and have picked up seven ARIAs (the Aussie equivalent of a Grammy), but large-scale commercial success has eluded them on this side of the pond. Thankfully, that hasn't slowed them down one bit.
You Am I's latest album, Convicts, was recorded in 15 days and released on US "music lover's" label Yep Roc Records. Loose, gritty, and occasionally profane, Convicts is 36 minutes of genuine songwriting mixed with the kind of uninhibited playing that you usually only get to hear in a live show.
Frontman and guitarist Tim Rogers sings, shouts, and stutters his way through most of the album, yet displays enough vulnerability – especially on songs like "Secrets" and "I'm a Mess" ("Well I'm a mess/and it's losin' its spark/it used to have a value/now I'm alone in the dark") – that You Am I comes across as much more than a boozy rock band.
I had a chance to see You Am I play in Winnipeg, Canada, of all places, when they shared a bill with Soundgarden and Reverend Horton Heat back in 1993 or 1994. (Inexplicably, I can't find that date on any of the bands' websites. They were all here. Honest.) As a result of that show, I picked up a copy of their first album, Sound As Ever, in a used record store. There was a depth to You Am I that is still present in their music thirteen years later.
This latest release is a cross between "Sorry Ma"-era Replacements and the solo work of Paul Westerberg, with the bluesy swagger of Jon Spencer Blues Explosion thrown in here and there for good measure. It's raucous, reckless and rough around the edges but melodic and varied enough to keep you interested.
Convicts is a fresh blast of garage rock, the likes of which I haven't heard in a while.
Download the single "Friends Like You"