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Record Reviews

You Am I
Sound As Ever/Hi Fi Way/Hourly, Daily

Overflowing deluxe reissues of their first three albums remind us exactly why You Am I are national treasures, writes ANDREW P STREET. Spoiler: it’s because these are fucking great records.

You Am I have long toiled in the shadow of their first three albums, but now they can actually embrace this fact with these deluxe reissues. They’re throwing themselves into it too, with a near-sold-out tour for albums two and three, and Sound as Ever getting an airing as part of Splendour in the Grass. And listening back to their debut album again now, with the benefit of hindsight, you can see why it’s not getting quite the same level of celebration as Hi Fi Way and Hourly, Daily: it’s a strong record that only occasionally sounds like You Am I.

That’s partially down to Tim Rogers’ vocals: he’d soon become far more adept at pulling out that strangulated howl of his for deliberate effect rather than as the default setting. But it’s principally because of Mark Tunaley’s drumming: specifically, the use of double kick and those big Dave Grohl drum fills. In fact, with Tunaley behind the kit, those Nirvana comparisons that were made in the early days make a hell of a lot more sense.

It’s spirited and raw (those dry, upfront vocals in particular), with songs speeding up as they barrel along – most notably on the still magnificent ‘Berlin Chair’. That and fellow singles ‘Jaimme’s Got A Gal’ and ‘Adam’s Ribs’ are the enduring classics, while many of the other songs sounds like they exist principally to give Silverchair ideas. (The US version of the album dropped Tulaney’s Tumbleweed-sounding ‘Off the Field’, and rightly so.)


The bonus disc contains B-sides, rarities and live recordings that mark the transition between the Tulaney period and the “proper” You Am I with Rusty Hopkinson behind the kit. The solo acoustic “Maker’s Mark” version of ‘Jaimme’s Got a Gal’ is lovely, and the choice of covers indicates where the band would be taking their cues from going forward: their take on The Who’s mod-tacular debut single ‘Can’t Explain’ is appropriately spirited, while the cover of John Lennon’s exhausted White Album classic ‘I’m So Tired’ has a menace the original lacks.

However, somewhat surprisingly, the tracks from the first EPs are not included, so those possessing the Snake Tide, Can’t Get Started and Coprolalia discs can rest assured their money was not wasted.

“It’s not polished, but it’s damned exciting.”

Then again, what’s here is pretty great. The sarcastic 12-bar blues of B-side ‘20,000’ is cute but slight, but the live-in-Seattle tracks show what a savage band the trio had become. This is the recording that made up the Someone Else’s Crowd live disc that was on the original Hi Fi Way pressing, but includes the previously absent ‘Embarrassed’ and a take of the classic ‘Young Man’s Blues’ (which in turn takes its cues from The Who’s Live at Leeds). Rogers’ guitar work is on full display, and there are some lyrical substitutions and occasional musical flubs as they burn through their set. It’s not polished, but it’s damned exciting.

And then we’re on to the masterpiece. There’s little that can be said about Hi Fi Way that hasn’t already been covered to death by various Classic Australian Albums wrap ups: it still sounds amazing, thanks to the unobtrusive production (by Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo), Hopkinson’s rock-solid drumming and some of the best songs Rogers was ever to write. The rockin’ moments – ‘Cathy’s Clown’, ‘Jewels and Bullets’, ‘Minor Byrd’, ‘The Applecross Wing Commander’ – have the guts of anything on the first album while showing a new appreciation of dynamics. And the more emotional moments – the still-heartstring-pulling ‘Purple Sneakers’, the obsessive ‘Handwasher’ – punch one right in the feels.

“Say what you like about Rogers, the man steals from the best.”

Meanwhile, chord-based strums like ‘She Digs Her’ and the glorious closer ‘How Much is Enough’ signpost the sorts of songs that were to become a YAI mainstay going forward. (Although every time I listen to the coda I still expect it to turn into Teenage Fanclub’s ‘Everything Flows’: say what you like about Rogers, the man steals from the best). Look, it’s a goddamn classic for a reason.


The bonus disc is also superb, containing some of the best B-sides from this golden period: specifically, the swaggering blues of ‘When You Got Dry’ and the strummy ‘Hi Fi Way’. There’s also a lovely double-acoustic-guitar version of Chris Bell’s ‘You and Your Sister’, along with throwaways like ‘Sci Fi Way’ (a pastiche of ‘Telstar’-style ’60s guitar instrumentals), and the snide two-minute punk of ‘Bitter Young Man of the Fanzine Press’.

Then there are live recordings, including a Live at the Wireless and several Sydney live recordings, including a version of ‘Handwasher’ that starts life as the Beatles’ ‘Things We Said Today’ and an unhinged version of the Spencer Davis Group’s ‘I’m a Man’.

Finally, Hourly, Daily. Barely a year after Hi Fi Way the band returned with a quasi-concept record about 24 hours in suburban Australia and from the opening title track it showed how ambitious the band had gotten: Mellotrons, cellos, and pianos accompanied Rogers’ plaintive voice. And if ‘Good Mornin’’ was a return to the classic You Am I sound, no previous recording had boasted a production trick like the tinny AM radio compression of the opening verse. The singles continue with the glorious ‘Mr Milk’, one of the band’s most jubilant songs and most blatant and shameless lifts – but even XTC would have to admit that they gave the ‘Senses Working Overtime’ bridge a hell of a new home – and then ‘Soldiers’ kicks in with jaunty brass.

The album’s somewhat frontloaded (side one also contains ‘If We Can’t Get It Together’ and ‘Wally Raffles’, so it’s a damned hard act to follow). If the second side doesn’t hit the highs of the first, then it’s suffering more by comparison than from any intrinsic lack of quality, although ‘Moon Shines on Trubble’ should have been a Britpop smash.

“ But when you’re faced with reissues, the only question is whether they’re worth getting.”

The bonus disc is basically You Am I Covers Corner: between the B-sides and a period live recording we get The Who’s ‘Circles’, The Easybeats’ ‘I’ll Make You Happy’ and ‘She’s So Fine’, The Move’s ‘I Can Hear the Grass Grow’, ‘(There’s Gonna Be A) Showdown’ by Archie Bell & the Drells (via New York Dolls, and The Johnnies…), Iggy & The Stooges’ ‘Search & Destroy’, The Beatles’ ‘You Can’t Do That’ and Dylan’s ‘Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You’. But none hold a candle to the mighty Hopkinson-sung version of The Mummies’ ‘(You Must Fight To Live) On the Planet of the Apes’. As a window in the band’s record collections, it’s instructive if nothing else.


But when you’re faced with reissues, the only question is whether they’re worth getting. After all, if you’re reading Mess + Noise there’s a greater-than-even chance that you’ve already got well-worn copies of these discs in your collection. Should you stump up again?

The answer’s a comprehensive yes, thanks to the bonus discs: if you don’t have the B-sides and live recordings they’re absolutely worthy of your attention. And if you do, then you’re clearly the sort of obsessive fan who’s hardly going to let the previously-unreleased tracks go by. It would have been nice to get the earliest tracks in there too, but what’s here is absolutely necessary.

As a document of one of the most important Australian bands of the last 20 years, these are absolutely vital. But there’s a more important reason you should have them: they’re three fucking great albums.

+

The “Superunreal Editions” of ‘Sound As Ever’, ‘Hi Fi Way’ and ‘Hourly, Daily’ come out today on CD and digital through Sony Music Australia. Limited vinyl reissues are due July 19 but can be pre-ordered here. You Am I are playing ‘Hi Fi Way’ and ‘Hourly, Daily’ in their entirety on a national tour.





  -   Published on Friday, June 21 2013 by Andrew P Street.
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Your Comments

NiteShok  said about 10 months ago:

Great write-up Mr Street


NiteShok  said about 10 months ago:

Also, that's gotta be the longest tracklisting ever attached to a M+N record review...


raven  said about 10 months ago:

Meh


Mess+Noise  said about 10 months ago:

Also, that's gotta be the longest tracklisting ever attached to a M+N record review...

And a gargantuan pain it was, too!


whatwhat  said about 10 months ago:

Box sets on their way to purchasers?


danb  said about 10 months ago:

Great write-up. One quibble: reviewer seems to be under the mistaken apprehension that HiFi Way is a better album than Hourly Daily.


Stocky  said about 10 months ago:

It is. But you can take it up here.


slothman  said about 10 months ago:

you can keep hourly daily, thanks. but i'm into those other two


turkey_sandwich  said about 10 months ago:

waits for someone to post picture of rubbish car


GOD  said about 10 months ago:

I still rate Sound As Ever. Never liked their Kinks everyman thing on subsequent LPs. Plus double kick roolz.


lolsmith  said about 10 months ago:

Hourly Daily roolz whatever. I want vinyl but it's too expensive and I'm a poor cunt aye.


whatwhat  said about 10 months ago:

box set that's not a box set arrived.

albums rule, but i was really hoping they'd be schmick like the suede re-releases, or boxed like blur.


nedb  said about 10 months ago:

Worth the coin whatwhat?


whatwhat  said about 10 months ago:

Worth the coin whatwhat?

I'm on the fence at the moment.

Haven't had a chance to examine the book yet, which looks nicely put together.

Scarf seems okay. Stickers. Guitar picks. Meh.


monkeyman  said about 10 months ago:

What's on the guitar picks? They had an art competition...


whatwhat  said about 10 months ago:

why doesn't andy get more props for his bass playing?

those runs on ''applecross'' and ''jewels and bullets'' are unreal.


joeboy  said about 10 months ago:

so how does the touched up production and mastering sound? Has it made a big difference?

I only got the vinyl, apparently they don't include mp3s of the bonus tracks, or the albums, so I might pick up the CD versions if there is a massive difference to the originals.


buddychilzelski  said about 9 months ago:

I might have a spare ticket for tonight's show if anyone is interested.


MarsAudiac  said about 9 months ago:

God, I am in super pedant mode today, but the review alternates between ''Tunaley'' and ''Tulaney''. It's the former.

I can't wait to pick tiny holes in and find small discrepancies in tonight's set! Wooo!

Nah, just kidding. I am super bloody excited!


__v  said about 9 months ago:

i like you am i but why are they ''important''?


Dexter Ramone  said about 9 months ago:

Can't wait for tonight. Enmore will be serving Young Henrys 'Brew Am I' at the bars also.


geneclark70  said about 9 months ago:

Word from Inertia via Red Eye is that vinyl is delayed and won't be available till 9th August. Assumedly that goes for all copies, including ones bought from YAI store.

Happy for someone to disprove that if they've got more info.


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Tracklisting
  • 1.   Coprolalia (Sound As Ever)
  • 2.   Berlin Chair (Sound As Ever)
  • 3.   Trainspottin' (Sound As Ever)
  • 4.   Adam's Ribs (Sound As Ever)
  • 5.   Rosedale (Sound As Ever)
  • 6.   Forever And Easy (Sound As Ever)
  • 7.   Everyone's To Blame (Sound As Ever)
  • 8.   Jaimme's Got A Gal (Sound As Ever)
  • 9.   Who's Leaving You Now? (Sound As Ever)
  • 10.   Ordinary (Sound As Ever)
  • 11.   You Scare Me (Sound As Ever)
  • 12.   Off The Field (Sound As Ever)
  • 13.   Sound As Ever (Sound As Ever)
  • 14.   Spit (Sound As Ever)
  • 15.   Alembic (Sound As Ever)
  • 16.   Can't Explain (Sound As Ever)
  • 17.   Jaimme (Makers Mark Version) (Sound As Ever)
  • 18.   All I Want To Do Is Rock (Sound As Ever)
  • 19.   I'm So Tired (Sound As Ever)
  • 20.   20,000 (Sound As Ever)
  • 21.   Rosedale (Acoustic Version) (Sound As Ever)
  • 22.   Trainspottin' (Acoustic Version) (Sound As Ever)
  • 23.   Berlin Chair (David Bianco Remix) (Sound As Ever)
  • 24.   Sound As Ever (Live in Seattle) (Sound As Ever)
  • 25.   Hi Fi Way (Live In Seattle) (Sound As Ever)
  • 26.   When You Got Dry (Live In Seattle) (Sound As Ever)
  • 27.   Forever And Easy (Live In Seattle) (Sound As Ever)
  • 28.   Berlin Chair (Live In Seattle) (Sound As Ever)
  • 29.   Adam's Ribs (Live In Seattle) (Sound As Ever)
  • 30.   Cool Hand Luke (Live In Seattle) (Sound As Ever)
  • 31.   Embarrassed (Live In San Antonio) (Sound As Ever)
  • 32.   Young Man Blues (Live in San Antonio) (Sound As Ever)
  • 33.   Ain't Gone And Open (Hi Fi Way)
  • 34.   Minor Byrd (Hi Fi Way)
  • 35.   She Digs Her (Hi Fi Way)
  • 36.   Cathy's Clown (Hi Fi Way)
  • 37.   Jewels And Bullets (Hi Fi Way)
  • 38.   Purple Sneakers (Hi Fi Way)
  • 39.   Pizza Guy (Hi Fi Way)
  • 40.   The Applecross Wing Commander (Hi Fi Way)
  • 41.   Stray (Hi Fi Way)
  • 42.   Handwasher (Hi Fi Way)
  • 43.   Punkarella (Hi Fi Way)
  • 44.   Ken (The Mother Nature's Son) (Hi Fi Way)
  • 45.   Gray (Hi Fi Way)
  • 46.   How Much Is Enough (Hi Fi Way)
  • 47.   When You Got Dry (Hi Fi Way)
  • 48.   Bitter Young Man Of The Franzine Press (Hi Fi Way)
  • 49.   Hi Fi Way (Hi Fi Way)
  • 50.   Gia E Respira (Hi Fi Way)
  • 51.   In The Street (Hi Fi Way)
  • 52.   Jaimme’s Got A Girl (Remix) (Hi Fi Way)
  • 53.   Sci Fi Way (Hi Fi Way)
  • 54.   We're Desperate (Hi Fi Way)
  • 55.   You And Your Sister (live on triple j) (Hi Fi Way)
  • 56.   Can't Get Started (triple j Live At The Wireless) (Hi Fi Way)
  • 57.   Minor Byrd (triple j Live At The Wireless) (Hi Fi Way)
  • 58.   Embarrassed (triple j Live At The Wireless) (Hi Fi Way)
  • 59.   Pizza Guy (triple j Live At The Wireless) (Hi Fi Way)
  • 60.   Punkarella (triple j Live At The Wireless) (Hi Fi Way)
  • 61.   Cathy's Clown (triple j Live At The Wireless) (Hi Fi Way)
  • 62.   Stray (triple j Live At The Wireless) (Hi Fi Way)
  • 63.   How Much Is Enough (triple j Live At The Wireless) (Hi Fi Way)
  • 64.   Jewels And Bullets (triple j Live At The Wireless) (Hi Fi Way)
  • 65.   Things We Said Today - Handwasher (Hi Fi Way)
  • 66.   Gray (Live in Sydney) (Hi Fi Way)
  • 67.   I'm A Man (Live in Sydney) (Hi Fi Way)
  • 68.   Adam's Ribs (Live in Sydney) (Hi Fi Way)
  • 69.   Hourly Daily (Hourly, Daily)
  • 70.   Good Mornin' (Hourly, Daily)
  • 71.   Mr Milk (Hourly, Daily)
  • 72.   Soldiers (Hourly, Daily)
  • 73.   Tuesday (Hourly, Daily)
  • 74.   If We Can't Get It Together (Hourly, Daily)
  • 75.   Flag Fall $1.80 (Hourly, Daily)
  • 76.   Wally Raffles (Hourly, Daily)
  • 77.   Heavy Comfort (Hourly, Daily)
  • 78.   Dead Letter Chorus (Hourly, Daily)
  • 79.   Baby Clothes (Hourly, Daily)
  • 80.   Someone Else's Home (Hourly, Daily)
  • 81.   Please Don't Ask Me To Smile (Hourly, Daily)
  • 82.   Moon Shines On Trubble (Hourly, Daily)
  • 83.   Who Takes Who Home? (Hourly, Daily)
  • 84.   Up Against It (Hourly, Daily)
  • 85.   Tuesday Morning (Hourly, Daily)
  • 86.   Mr Milk (Hourly, Daily)
  • 87.   My Friend Jack (Hourly, Daily)
  • 88.   Boulder Fair (Hourly, Daily)
  • 89.   Six (Hourly, Daily)
  • 90.   Count To Four (Hourly, Daily)
  • 91.   I'll Make You Happy (Hourly, Daily)
  • 92.   (You Must Fight To Live) On The Planet Of Apes (Hourly, Daily)
  • 93.   Circles (Hourly, Daily)
  • 94.   Tonight I'll be Staying Here With You (Hourly, Daily)
  • 95.   Trike (Hourly, Daily)
  • 96.   Opportunities (Hourly, Daily)
  • 97.   Who Turned Out The Lights (Hourly, Daily)
  • 98.   I Can Hear The Grass Grow (Hourly, Daily)
  • 99.   (There's Gonna Be A) Showdown (Hourly, Daily)
  • 100.   Minor Byrd (Beat Party Live At Wiseold's) (Hourly, Daily)
  • 101.   Punkarella (Beat Party Live At Wiseold's) (Hourly, Daily)
  • 102.   She's So Fine (Hourly, Daily)
  • 103.   Makin' Time (Hourly, Daily)
  • 104.   How Much Is Enough (Hourly, Daily)
  • 105.   Applecross Wing Commander (Hourly, Daily)
  • 106.   Search And Destroy (Hourly, Daily)
  • 107.   You Can't Do That (Live at Jazz Lane for Melbourne's 3RRR 102.7 FM) (Hourly, Daily)
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