The typical good-band/bad-band breakdown is as such: A good band makes you buy a (fill in blank with chosen instrument) because you aspire to be it; a bad band makes you buy a (same instrument) because you aspire to be better than it. Yet for all its years as Australia’s typical good band, You Am I, on its fifth album, Deliverance, is neither. Not that it’s a bad thing; although its sound has matured and has been toned down, You Am I has attained a subtlety that wraps you up rather than kicks you out the door to the nearest Sam Ash.
Deliverance plays out in such a way that rock-infused tracks are followed by acoustic driven melodies, allowing fans of You Am I’s past discography to revel in vocalist Tim Rogers’ wonderfully formed howl while still allowing quieter moments to slip in. It’s during these tracks, such as “The Wrong Side Now,” that You Am I reveals its understated charm. Opening with just the hum of a cello, Rogers’ voice seems to soften with each strum of acoustic guitar, slowly building up during the chorus, before again breaking away for each verse. Though the track won’t challenge you, it manages to command your attention while not being in your face, a feat most bands can’t accomplish.
Even title track, which throws away quiet acoustics for banging bass lines and growling yelps, keeps it interesting. Though leaning more toward the meat and potatoes rather than the fois gras side of rock, You Am I adds intricacy by balancing slightly off-kilter verses with a straightforward chorus. Just as the song sounds as if it’s about to wind down, back it comes, this time adding handclaps, the ubiquitous accessory of any rock band nowadays (although it should be noted that the album was recorded back in early 2002).
Using everything from aforementioned handclaps to a cello to a fantastically twittering organ, You Am I fills every song with texture, adding lushness to the album’s simplicity. Although a band that challenges is considered better, or at least more provoking, than one that doesn’t, it is pleasant to find an album that lets you just listen and enjoy. The band, through this simplicity, makes what they do seem so easy. Every song comes off effortlessly, which may be why they, along with Sloan, who have also got the older-foreign-pop/rock thing going on, may not have hit it “big” in the US — people here look for a band that will move them to their feet, for better or for worse. But take the time to sit and listen to the music; not only will it surprise you, but will also save you the cost of a new (instrument from first paragraph).