You Am I – You Am I (Other Tongues)
Some of the characters and songs of the eight You Am I albums before this one could well have framed themselves through the theatrical tales of Greek tragedy. Even Tim Rogers, the singer, guitarist and epicentre of the band has had his fair share of tragic and comedic episodes throughout the band’s 20-odd years. In album number nine however this sentiment does not ever extend past the album’s artwork – illustrated with dancing ladies like something from one of the plays of Euripides, skirting the mouth of the volcano Thera.
The drama and even elation sound only skin-deep and that’s from a band that have always been able to belt out a ballad you could believe in as much as a stadium slice of balls-out rock. Up against their back catalogue, the bawdy rock that typified the band in full flight on Sound As Ever, Deliverance or Convicts is absent here. The flipside of pop smarts that strung you up with hooks aplenty throughout Hi Fi Way, Hourly Daily or #4 Record are, too, sadly scant over these 40-odd minutes of music. The closest we get to the familiar strains of one of this country’s best rock bands is the quiet confidence and stylish execution that charted the band into new territory with Dress Me Slowly and Dilettantes.
What typifies You Am I circa 2010 is a laidback contentment and a wry curiosity to expand some of the sounds that fill the palette of guitars here… and not much else. We’ve seen this kind of thing before too. Something For Kate was a band that came to prominence with a fiery rage and songs to match. After a while they sorted out their personal demons and pacified their music, finding a new audience and a successful highway of boring middle of the road rock. It’s scary to think that this scenario could currently be in play with this band and this album, but it’s just so evident here that Timmy hasn’t just sobered up, he sounds like he’s sorted himself out and found contentment, which in turn has come to define this album.
All bar a few of these 11 songs come with the same mix of electric and acoustic guitars, crooned vocals and a sunny, mid-tempo pop-rock delivery. It’s only halfway through the album though that this hits home with the diversion of ‘Crime’, a sprawling and luscious piece of introspection that offers us the first taste of what a dreamy You Am I would sound like. This is quickly followed with the bold crunch of guitar chords, possibly heralding something we can really get out teeth into but no, even ‘The Ocean’ never gets up more than a moderate gait. As Timmy serenades the line “I need to feel the ride”, it rings like a punchline. For the majority of this band’s career they have been making music about the passions, trials and intense feelings they’ve personally felt and they’ve effortlessly turned these into A-grade rock songs. This album shows musicians not feeding off their feelings, but writing analogies about needing feelings to feed off.
“I want to feel once again” is the chorus line that comes a mere five minutes later in ‘Pinpricks’, and it sounds like our chief songwriter Tim Rogers really does need to! That’s not to suggest that You Am I are consciously surveying their mid-life surrounds and taking a breezy stab at a new muse but it’s only when they return to the passion and the vitriol that brought them this far that they will return to the timeless quality of songs like ‘Jewels And Bullets’, ‘How Much Is Enough’, ‘Heavy Heart’, ‘Damage’ and ‘Who Put The Devil In You’ and countless others – that is, unless success is enticed to keep our lads on their current path of consolation. Ten years ago, Timmy sang “What would I do with a satisfied mind?” This album is your answer!