Review Summary: You Am I's debut record is laced with grunge swagger and the lyrical brilliance of Tim Rogers
The year was 1993; Grunge was taking the world by storm thanks to the success of classic releases from Nirvana and Pearl Jam among others. In Australia, “You Am I” rode the wave of interest in grunge and landed themselves a spot on the touring music festival “Big Day Out”. Sonic Youth were also touring with the “Big Day Out”, and Lee Ronaldo, impressed by their sound and performance, helped them out in recording and producing their debut release “Sound As Ever”, and ultimately started one of the most successful local bands onto their highway to success. While this album is not “Grunge” all the way through, the early rock sounds of “You Am I” are rooted in the dirty sounds and lack of production values that dominated the music scene in the early 90s.
The album opens with the grimy bass which oozes grunge all over “Coprolalia”. Driven by the heavy (and often double bass kicks) of original drummer Mark Tunaley, frontman and song smith Tim Rogers belts out the somewhat juvenile lyrics (especially when compared to his later works) “Feet in the stall/juicing the call/Don't mean nothing/'til you feel it all”, the woes of a teenager who cant be bothered to wake up in the morning. This album hosts what some fans call the quintessential You Am I song, “Berlin Chair” (Aussie band Silverchair came up with their name buy combining the title of this song with Nirvana’s track ‘Sliver’). Rogers laments on the pains of being used till he breaks, and understanding that he’s the loser.
I'll ignore each golden, dragging kiss you can give.
On the blankest face that you ever had to forgive.
If you see my fallings, see my failings through.
I'm the re-run that you'll always force yourself to sit through
Think anybody was noticing the bad body image that was being crammed down kids throats with pictures of supermodels everywhere with their super slim waists in the early 90s" Tim Rogers was, and sings about how everything will be fine, if only he was being sick after every meal in the aptly titled “Adam’s Ribs” Not all the tracks feature the depressing themes of youth though. Upbeat tunes like “Forever and Easy” and “Trainspottin” are sung in a more positive and ‘happy’ attitude by Rogers and how things can get better. The Pearl Jamesque “Jaimme’s Got A Gal” is the story of your best mates new girlfriend stealing him away from you. Based on the real life departure of pre-album member Jaimme (brother of Tim Rogers), Rogers reminisces over times spent together while the band drums out a sombre melody to match the themes. “A game's a game, you don't want it being the same, but you sure aint like you were yesterday, but go on and try it. ”The slower tracks like “Ordinary” hint at the softer direction Tim Rogers takes in his later solo works outside of the band as well as the less abrasive sounds that will feature on the bands later records.
Sonically, ‘Sound As Ever’ isn’t the most impressive album. The drums lack punch, the vocals sound thin, and then it sounds like the entire recording was mastered underwater. The songs are mostly simple and straightforward, but they’re played well and coherently. And most importantly, they are laced with Tim Rogers’s lyrical gems (with the odd exception being “Coprolalia”). ‘Sound As Ever’ shows a band in its infancy, but with so much room to grow, and over the coming years, growing’s all they did.