An album a week #7: Hourly, Daily by You Am I
What can I say about You Am I? This album came out at their mid-90s commercial peak, when the sky was the limit and they were in the middle of a run of three number 1 records.
It got a lot a press at the time, but somehow even then their success was too good to be true. Can you be idiosyncratic, lyrically dense and vulnerable and be successful if you are not the Smiths? I’m not sure. Even back then the writing was on the wall; they went number 1 but they also debuted there and watched their records fall out of the charts pretty quickly. Their fans bought them up, but there was no long tail. They never had a real hit single, nothing in the top 10. Singer songwriter guitar player Tim Rogers was too honest and too diffident at the same time, and interviewers never seemed to ‘get’ him. They just did not look like the next Midnight Oil or INXS. They looked more like the next Go-Betweens — destined for a coterie following, and critics’ darlings.
I was reasonably youthful then. I had my copy of Hi Fi Way. I’d seen them live. I bought the album even after hearing the rather too jangly single version of Mr Milk on the radio. I kept going to see them live, I’m even in the audience of their live album (and that is a cracker, I might say).
This record won a bunch of awards, called ARIAs, that apparently ended up in Tim’s toilet. It’s a sixties pop record, a suburban concept record about meeting girls and getting stuck where you are. It contains possibly Tim’s best ever lyric — and there are a lot to choose from — in ‘If We Can’t Get it Together’, a song that should have been the first single in my humble and probably wrong opinion. About getting married: “We might as well do it next week, cos we’ve met everybody that we’re ever gonna meet.”
It’s got a lot of good tracks on it, and in my opinion no really weak ones. It’s an Australian masterpiece, no doubt. Since this album they made the equally marvellous #4 Record and then turned from a beat group into a rock group, which at the time I didn’t like and am still ambivalent about, though I do like their self titled album of a couple of years ago, and more all the time.
Hourly, Daily bombed in the UK, where it was seen as a pale echo of dying Britpop; but taken on its own, twenty years after its release (not that it was really of its time anyway), it stands out as an example of sharp guitar rock/pop writing, with snappy hooks both musical and lyrical, and underneath it a connection to a place — the suburbs, wherever they are — and a way of life that might not be what you wanted but it was what you had, and it’s limits had to be overcome but at least it gave you a place in the world.
If you’ve never given it a spin, you could do a lot worse.