Review Summary: Brilliant in parts, frustratingly mediocre in others
You Am I's fifth album "Dress Me Slowly" showcases many of the attributes that has made them such an enduring and loved band over the years. The album has some big hooks, sincere balladry and Tim Rogers lyrics are both introspective and full of the kind of rockstar bravado we have come to love from his previous releases. Despite these things, "Dress Me Slowly" seriously threatens, but never actually seems to take off and become the album that it could have been.
2001 was a prime opportunity for You Am I to gain some ground on the more popular Australian rock bands like Silverchair and Grinspoon who were all relatively quiet at the time. Fans of these kind of bands may well have looked deeper to find some new music in the form of You Am I, but for the large part, this never happened. Songs like "Get Up", "Damage" or "Kick a Hole In The Sky" could have easily been embraced by newcomers more accustomed to more mainstream Australian rock acts because they were reasonably catchy, accessible songs. But by typical You Am I luck, they were scarcely noticed by these potential new fans. However it was not the failure to break into a larger mainstream audience that prevented "Dress Me Slowly" from being as good as it could have been. The actual cause is initially hard to pinpoint, whilst it seemed to have all the ingredients necessary to make it a breakthrough album, some typical Rogers swagger, sincere balladry and varied and interesting lyrics, it lacked consistency and a little bit of depth. It does not possess the intimacy and overall quality of "Hourly Daily", it is a more mature overall album than both "Sound As Ever" and "Hi Fi Way" but lacked big singles like "Berlin Chair" or "Cathy's Clown". It is varied but also inconsistent. It contains brilliant, trademark You Am I songs like "Kick A Hole In The Sky" and "Judge Roy" as well as some touching balladry in "Damage", but frustratingly lacks the depth to rival the quality of "Hourly Daily" or even "No 4 Record".
Songs like "Bring Some Sun Back Wit' You" and "Watcha Doin' To Me" are good songs, but they lack some of the big hooks or lyrical inspiration of better You Am I songs. These kind of less remarkable tracks have their place on albums sometimes, and they do create a good equilibrium with some of the better songs on this album, as they do on many albums by many artists. The problem with "Dress Me Slowly" however is that these somewhat mediocre songs represent the majority of the album and thus prevent it from being all that it could be. Whilst they are not bad songs in their own right, their prevalence ends up dragging the album down. This is sad considering the immense quality of a few of the better songs on the album.
Sound wise and arrangement wise, "Dress Me Slowly" is somewhat similar to "No 4 Record". They both hit you with very loud and frenetic rock songs like "Rumble"or "Get Up", then serenade you with great ballads in "Heavy Heart" and "Damage". They both have quieter moments but "Dress Me Slowly" just seems to lack some of the energy and inspiration of its predecessor. Despite this, the songs are all well produced and the band plays them confidently, its just that some of them aren't great songs. Eventhough the album has flaws, it is still great to see the evolution of You Am I's sound from the much grimier, grunge tinged days of "Sound as Ever"and "Hi Fi Way" to that of a more mature and musically diverse band that continues to grow.
On "Dress Me Slowly", we find You Am I exhibiting glimpses of brilliance and the enormous talent that they have. However, the inconsistency of going between moments of brilliance and periods of mediocrity, as well as the absence of a major hit single prevents "Dress Me Slowly" from going further than a 3.5 when it could have gone a lot higher.