Adventures of a University Finalist

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Better Than Making Pizzas and Waitin' Round to Die


Tim Rogers and the Twin Set - What Rhymes with Cars and Girls? (rooArt, 1999)

Tim Rogers and the Twin Set - Happy Anniversary
Tim Rogers and the Twin Set - Hi, We're the Support Band
Tim Rogers and the Twin Set - I Left My Heart All Over the Place
Tim Rogers and the Twin Set - Arse Kickin' Lady From the North West

I met Tim Rogers once when I was a lowly peon at Feeling Fruity, an Australian juice bar, and he asked for some horrible juice with celery, carrots and various other crap that noone ever drinks out of choice. Obviously his own hangover cure. At that time, I wasn't all that big a fan of his band You Am I, legends of Australian rock that they be, but I knew that my sister was a HUGE fan. Being a nervous little rabbit of a seventeen year old, I first ascertained that I was serving the legend himself before coming out with a genuine conversational pearl that even the likes of Coward and Wilde would mutter "Wish I'd thought of that one". And it was, drum roll please maestro, "My sister's going to go mad when I tell her about this." In answer to which Tim pushed back his sunglasses and then with a face so straight that it was a vacuum of emotion he simply said "You better not tell her then", picked up his juice and sauntered off. The man is cool as fuck.
And this CD is further evidence to that conclusion. To start, the name of the album clearly riffs off Bruce Springsteen and that ironic tribute to the Boss, "Cars and Girls", by Durham's greatest poet, Paddy McAloon. I mean look at that picture of the man himself. He's wearing tight denim jeans and a scarf that seems to be slowly ending its passage to the stage floor. He's got a silly 1800s bushwhacker beard and his shirt open one button too many so that we can see a veritable enchanted forest of chest hair. And how does he look? Great! And does he have any right to? No! It's severely unfair. But rather apt in the fact that the man can continue to release the same sweaty fireball country rock, Little Feat if Lowell George had fully embraced the enigma of feedback, and it always sounds fresh and invigorating.
'What Rhymes...' is a departure from the You Am I canon as it moves rather far down the country side of the spectrum toward Caitlin Cary strings, madolins, steel guitars and accordions. This is signified by "Arse Kickin' Lady From the North West", a real rip snorter of a title that seems an instant clue that as soon as the track hits your speakers all that's going to come out is noise. Instead, you get handclaps and a banjo solo. Hmmmm. Having said that I can reel off entire song off from memory because the lyrics are just so strong with Rogers still the best lyricist to have ever come out of the country. Yes, I think he's better than Marty Donald, Charles Jenkins and Stevie Wright combined. "She came on down from the north west of town/in a '63 Holden EJ/With potato from Kentucky/and a fresh pack of luckies/and a Bowie compilation tape". He creates such an evocative narrative without ever giving away too much like all the best storytellers.
Rogers on 'Hi, We're the Support Band' details the humourous trials and tribulations of You Am I touring where they were slightly less popular than in Oz with tongue firmly in cheek and guitar firmly in hand. It's quite the skiffle stomp 'cept with better instruments than your mother's old washboard. However, two points should be made at this point: (a) Rogers isn't the best vocalist but cruises through these deficiencies without noticing descending into scat, elongation of vowels, mispronunciation for the hell of it and yelling the hell out of the high notes (hear his pronunication of "retro" and "Rambo" with the Jackie Wilson r's on this song), and (b) on the surface this song, could seem the harmless jape and the filler to pad out the album before the rain hammering against the windscreenwipers of a finale in "The Songs They Played As I Drove Away". However, it slowly descends into this lyrical funk as the backbiting headliners begin to effect our hero, along with the homesickness, shitty dressing rooms, and dickhead soundmen before the final morbid retribution found within its final line.
'Happy Anniversary' must be heard if only for the wonderful Dylanesque wordplay of "I heard you thinkin' early morning as you rub your eyes/your pretty poker face as it's staring at my roulette mind." Rogers adds so much to the song's plaintive melancholy with his rock n' roll growl, the toll of the bells, the strum of the acoustic, and finally, the steady kick of the drum as it prowls around at the top of the mix.
Yet, the clear centrepiece of this album, around which everything else merely revolves, is 'I Left My Heart All Over The Place' a song forever engraved across my heart. I mentioned Dylan before in describing Roger's verbal style but that's unfair on Rogers who is neither as infuriatingly verbose nor as wifully abstract as Mr Zimmerman. Every couplet, every nuance is a perfectly chosen emotional punch in the stomach. In doing so, it escapes the idle masochism normally associated with country, the blues and recently "emo". Surely, that must be recognised as a musical gift to be treasured even in this; the era of the singer-songwriter. Rather than continuously spouting the words "love" or "soul", like a broken Barry White doll, he has created an album that investigates the themes that such words connotate but within a framework of suburban malaise, lonely hearts radio and listening to sad songs you normally hate just because you're in full break up tilt. To dub it as simply country rock/roots would be to undermine all its strengths. As Rogers' himself says, "I think real country music tends to have a bit of melodrama and melancholy. You know, suicide, death, bestiality, and I don't hear that [in the album]". Like I said, cool as fuck.

Visit - Tim Rogers at You Am
Buy - Tim Rogers and the Twin Set - What Rhymes With Cars and Girls?