God Bless The Fucking Lot Of Us: The History Of You Am I In 15 Essential Tracks
From suburban rockers to festival killers, it's been a wild ride.
It’s almost 30 years since a young Tim Rogers took his love of Aerosmith and the Hard-Ons and decided to do something constructive with it.
What he never would have guessed is the impact this band — formed while he was still a teenager — would go on to have. You Am I are widely regarded as one of the most important rock bands to ever come out of Australia. In their ’90s heyday, they scored three back-to-back number one albums — the first Australian band to do so — and have carried that legacy across sold-out shows in nearly every pub, club, and theatre you can possibly think of.
Today, we’re going to take a look at how the band’s songs have defined their evolution and their legacy. Of course, if you want the story told strictly by their most well-known songs, there’s a perfectly good compilation album that will help you out – 2003’s The Cream and the Crock. It’s a ripper, too.
That, however, is not the plan here. If you want a clearer picture of what You Am I have creatively achieved, then you have a scratch only this playlist can itch. God bless the fucking lot of us.
#1. ‘Snake Tide’ (1991)
One of the earliest You Am I recordings, ‘Snake Tide’ is almost unrecognisable — least of all because two-thirds of its line-up would not end up going the distance. Bassist Nik Tischler would depart a year later, while drummer Mark Tunaley (here dropping both punk beats and double-kick) lasted until just after Sound as Ever. It’s loud, rumbling and primitive.
Far from perfect, but a necessary moment of development.
#2. ‘Coprolalia’ (1993)
Side A, track one — and on a debut album, no less. For many, ‘Coprolalia’ was their first impression of You Am I — and, for all intents and purposes, it definitively sticks. Rogers rocks a drop-D riff over fuss bass and thwacking drums, occasionally letting loose a righteous scream to really drive the whole affair home.
It’s the last hurrah for the You Am I of old — as, in only a few tracks’ time, everything changes.
#3. ‘Adam’s Ribs’ (1993)
As the band’s first official single, ‘Adam’s Ribs’ channels the band’s heavier and grungier influences through a power-pop streamline. The main riff could just as easily belong to The Who as it could to Nirvana, and that’s entirely a compliment.
It struck a chord with the triple j audience too, landing smack-bang in the middle of the first annual Hottest 100 back in 1993 — kicking off a streak of 14 songs in the countdown across nine years. Not bad.
#4. ‘Ken (The Mother Nature’s Son)’ (1995)
There are plenty of dissertations out there about Hi-Fi Way‘s best-known singles. With ‘Ken,’ we’re looking at a track that by all rights should have been one of them. It’s a brisk, sharp-toothed guitar-pop track, sporting killer harmonies from Andy Kent and all the same robust energy of ‘Cathy’s Clown.’
It’s since gotten its due as a live favourite, but one still can’t help but wonder what could have been.
#5. ‘How Much is Enough?’ (1995)
Both Hi-Fi Way and The Cream and the Crock close out with one of the band’s most beloved songs — a perfectly-struck balance between their rock and roll tendencies and their pensive balladry. It’s easy to point to ‘Purple Sneakers’ as doing the same, but ‘How Much’ manages to hit all the right spots that notches it just a pinch further.
In particular, Rogers singing the age-old question of “Did you ever want to just lose touch with everybody you know?” is an all-too-real moment of twenty-something heartbreak.
#6. ‘Hourly, Daily’ (1996)
An overture for what is widely considered to be You Am I’s best album, the title track opens with acoustic guitar and cello — two things you would have never guessed the band would have picked up even a couple of years prior.
It’s reflective of the album’s commentary on the friction and tension that lingers within the confines of suburbia. It’s one of the most composed, refined arrangements ever created under the You Am I moniker — a perfect start to a perfect album.
#7. ‘Someone Else’s Home’ (1996)
One of the key tracks on Hourly, Daily may well be one of its more overlooked. ‘Someone Else’s Home’ is a song ostensibly about finding yourself in a new city with new people, equal parts excited by its prospect and terrified by the impending identity crisis.
Like much of Hourly, it’s simultaneously introspective and autobiographical, yet broad enough that it can be related back to a myriad of situations.
#8. ‘Junk’ (1998)
In the opening minutes of #4 Record, it’s clear that we’re not in suburbia anymore. ‘Junk’ is a swaggering, sneering rocker, topped off with sizzling horns and walloping snare rolls care of Rusty Hopkinson.
It’s just as effective an album opener as ‘Hourly, Daily,’ albeit in a manner reflective of the complete opposite end of You Am I’s sonic spectrum.
#9. ‘Kick a Hole in the Sky’ (2001)
With Davey Lane officially on board, the best-known line-up of the band was officially cemented with the release of Dress Me Slowly. Already a considerably underrated record, ‘Hole in the Sky’ in particular deserves a seat at the table in the history of the band’s strongest singles.
It cements Lane as a perfect sideman to Rogers’ energy, with all respect to Andy Kent — his harmonies in the chorus send it from good to great, while his solo later in the piece is an absolute ripper.
#10. ‘Deliverance’ (2002)
In case it wasn’t clear by the Keith Richards guitar chops and the persistent cowbell, the title track to 2002’s Deliverance is You Am I’s love letter to the Rolling Stones.
It’s a capital-R rock song, boasting a stomping groove and bluesy chords churning against a steady bassline and Rogers’ none-too-subtle Jaggerisms. Funnily enough, the year after this album came out the band actually supported the Stones on their Australian tour — talk about self-actualisation.
#11. ‘Thank God I’ve Hit the Bottom’ (2006)
On an album long since described as a troubled time for the band, the highlight of Convicts comes with its all-guns-blazing opener. Clocking in at 1:52, ‘Bottom’ is a time capsule of rage, punk-rock anarchy and guttural grievances.
Live, the band would perform the song without Rogers playing guitar, leaving him to prowl the stage unattached like the hardcore frontman he always could have been.
#12. ‘Wankers’ (2008)
Fifteen years into the game, it’s clear that You Am I were ready to simply make records for themselves. This makes for a more inconsistent listen overall, but even on the weaker moments of albums like Dilettantes it’s clear that they wouldn’t want to be doing anything else but playing together.
A track like ‘Wankers’ is a testament to this very idea — not only the fact they literally named a track ‘Wankers,’ but also how much fun they’re having while playing it.
#13. ‘Trigger Finger’ (2010)
A curious stylistic departure so late into the game, this single from their eponymous LP is a low-key strut down a dark alleyway that feels almost as unrecognisable as their grunge-metal days.
Rogers assumes a higher vocal range, verging on falsetto, while Kent fills the room with a snappy bass-line and Lane tastefully picks his moments to intrude with a lick or two. Lanie Lane provides backing vocals, too — remember her?
14. ‘Buzz the Boss’ (2015)
Davey Lane entered You Am I as its biggest fan, almost feeling like an intruder. Just over 15 years on, it was hard to imagine You Am I without him. ‘Buzz the Boss’ is one of two tracks in which Lane finally takes lead vocal — and it’s safe to say he makes the most of his moment in the spotlight.
It’s pure power-pop with a heart of gold, all warm harmonies and bright guitars. You Am I is just as much Lane’s band as it is Rogers’, Kent’s or Hopkinson’s now, and ‘Buzz’ is testament to that evolution.
#15. ‘Berlin Chair’ (1993)
Okay, fine. You’ve been patient through the album cuts, we’ll give you the hit. Truth is, you can’t tell You Am I’s story without ‘Berlin Chair.’ It’s anthemic, from background music for a Sunday arvo barbecue or being blasted across the country on triple j by Myf Warhurst — who famously sang along to the entire track before realising she’d left her mic on.
It’s a song of codependency, trust and endearing love through one another’s flaws. It’s the kind of song any self-respecting band, genre regardless, would have fucking killed to have written.
David James Young is a freelance writer and podcaster. One time when he was interviewing Tim Rogers over the phone, the call began with David asking “Hi, is this Tim?” and Tim replying “…fuck, I hope so.” You can find out more about him at www.davidjamesyoung.com.