Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Giving Up and Getting Fat

Tim Rogers, the lead singer and songwriter of the Australian band You Am I, has always worn his influences on his sleeve: from the band's grungy beginnings to its powerpop phase, and myriad covers (Kiss, Dolls, Kinks, Stones, Mats, Big Star, and the Who). Lately, Mr. Rogers has been listening to Wilco (ha, Roger Wilco!). He also harbors a grudge against those who don't recognize his intelligence, and he seems at pains to prove himself witty and well-read. This doesn't bode well for a rock & roll record.

On the new album's single "Erasmus", Rogers pledges,"I'm going to be more than I was, just because." The best tracks on Dilettantes are the most upbeat, where the band sounds most like itself. "Frightfully Moderne" has a terrible title but a great chorus: "You ain't seen the best of us yet." The singer considers taking a "sweet slice" of success and complacency on Givin Up and Getting Fat, but he's too curmudgeonly to do so. The song starts out as a complaint set to a backbeat, but it ends like a 747 taking off.

I thought a dilettante was a person with pretensions to cultivated tastes, but Tim Rogers says that it can refer either to "folks who dabble in appreciation of arts or culture, or those who have a deep love for works or performers... More often than not the people who have left the deepest impressions on me have been those who have delicately bashed my ears with their love of music, art, literature, and with no airs and graces, more peanuts and beer." This statement reminds me of the You Am I song "Vandalism", in which Tim Rogers describes a friend who "talks about Art Blakey, and I pretend to know what he means".

You Am I has been around since 1991. Rogers and his bandmates are superstars in their native Australia, headlining festivals and opening only for the Who and the Stones. You Am I was championed in North America by Soundgarden and Sonic Youth, but the records never got much attention from college radio, and Dilettantes is the second YAI album without a US release. Yep Roc issued 2006's Convicts domestically, but the label has no plans to do so with Dilettantes. Try here if you're interested in getting a copy.


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