Review Summary: You Am I rock out
You Am I have become something of an enigma in the Australian music world over the years. They are known both for the poetic lyrics of frontman Tim Rogers and for their exuberant, rocking live shows. Whilst they started out making heavily grunge-influenced albums in the early 90’s, they eventually adopted a more polished rock sound that endured for the vast majority of their work post Hi Fi Way (1995).
Convicts is a notable record because it is a big change of pace for the band. It is an album that sees You Am I making a conscious decision to let it all loose and rock out. Opener, Thank God I’ve Hit The Bottom sets a frenetic pace, with a distorted punk riff accompanying a heavy drum beat and guttural howls from Rogers. It is not the best song on the album, but it is the most anarchic 1:53 of You Am I’s (recorded) career and an appropriate introduction to Convicts.
While Convicts is their most rockin’ album to date, (being described by Rogers as their album most akin to a projectile vomit) it still holds some sensitive moments where Rogers’ lyrical nous comes to the fore. Nervous Kid details his previous struggles with schizophrenia and anxiety in a heartfelt ode to his colourful past, while in Explaining Cricket he broaches familiar territory, lamenting his “words getting lost in the amber again”. These moments of introspection are one of the most endearing traits of the band, and Rogers’ ability to so poignantly juxtapose them with his belligerent rocker swagger is one of his greatest strengths as an artist.
On Convicts though, the rocking chorus is king. When “When the going gets tough, she’ll kick you in the nuts and watch your Christmas list wither and die” is screamed at the end of Friends Like You, it is obvious You Am I are out to pack a punch and embrace the vigour and energy of their punk rock roots. This approach is refreshing, and allows the band to really let loose and show off their chops. It Ain’t Funny How We Don’t Talk Anymore is one of their more accomplished pieces from recent memory, with a glorious double guitar assault topped off by a scorching Davey Lane solo. The band is in generally good touch throughout, and the production allows the instrumentation, particularly the guitar work, to shine.
This said, Convicts is not flawless. Some songs lack a big enough hook to be great rockers and enough atmosphere to compete with their best balladry, but these moments are totally outweighed by the positives of the album.
While Convicts is probably not You Am I’s greatest album, it represents a big stride in the right direction for a band recording their seventh album after a career littered with many highs and lows. It is definitely the best exploration of their rock sound to date and establishes that they still have plenty to offer to the music world.