I cheated. On the home stretch I swapped out My Morning Jacket’s Z for a You Am I record. It’s alright, the Morning Jacket one. I listened to it, it was fine (I didn’t like it) but I had to listen to You Am I and I needed an excuse. I had to listen to You Am I because ever since I saw Tim Rogers on New Years, I’ve been falling in love with him. Easy to do, apparently. “I love Tim Rogers. If I could only fuck one musician, it would be Tim Rogers,” a modelesque friend told me last year. “Yeah, he’s dreamy,” I said, thinking she was referring to Australia’s other Tim Rogers, the gloomy and under-recognised Jack Ladder. Surely she wasn’t referring to the wrinkly rocker? She was, though. Now I get it.
When I saw him, he wasn’t even playing with You Am I. He was certainly performing, though, on-stage with RocKwiz in the presence of Jess Cornelius and Lanie Lane. He did a cover of Bowie and modified the lyrics to mock the predominantly teen-aged crowd for not even knowing who Bowie was, which might’ve just been a hollow joke except over the next few days the biggest crowds showed up for only the shittest bands, so while they might’ve recognised the name “David Bowie” I doubt it’d seem an important one. But you only have to watch his interviews to get a sense of the man as a self-conscious and dedicated and clever if not always articulate (articulation is overrated anyway) performer. Maybe just read this incredibly courteous response he wrote about a negative review from last year. It’ll tell you all you need to know.
Hourly, Daily is no concept album but the structure loosely follows the progression from morning to night. Like much of the rest of Aussie rock, its preoccupation with the suburbs is depicted in a way that’s both more banal and more intimate than much of the American treatment of suburban rock which tends to swing for the fence, baseball metaphor intended, in a more grandiose, cinematic tradition. While chief troubadour of the American suburbs Bruce Springsteen watches kids flash guitars like switchblades and the Arcade Fire paint shopping malls like looming mountains, old mates like Paul Kelly and Tim Rogers are sitting on a hill over the MCG thinking about how chilly it is (Kelly’s “Leaps and Bounds”), or waking up and enjoying the comforting voice of morning breakfast radio (You Am I’s “Good Mornin’”). I don’t mean to privilege the hometown, though; there are parts on Hourly, Daily that sound like they’re heading for a big moment but relent to a cheesy hook, a dissatisfying turn that’s been plaguing/defining Australian rock since at least Livin’ In The 70s. You take the good with the bad.
However, in accordance with the sentiment of “Good Mornin’” there’s immense comfort in hearing a familiar story that at least confirms that there’s someone else out there, and Hourly, Daily pegs bits of at least my experience growing up in the suburbs. I remember waking up every morning at 6.30 before school to the voices of The Cage, the breakfast show on Triple M, and so did most of my friends so that’s the first thing we’d talk about when we got to school. “Tuesday” has Rogers reflecting on what it’s like to be a shut-in, smoking cigarettes and catching late-night buses and staying up all night listening to your neighbours row, which has become a weekly occurrence around here. Hell, the last bus actually does leave at 10.15 just like he says, which means I’m more often taking taxis at 1am (or the first bus the next morning), but he covers that on “Flag Fall $1.80”. “Start at $1.80 / Add the extra / But for that late night AM talkback line / Don’t use my mirror for your hairdo / If you don’t mind.” I was in a cab the other day and the driver asked if I wouldn’t mind if he had a chat to his wife on the phone. “Sure thing,” I said, understanding fella that I am. What was it that tipped me off first? That his “wife” was calling for a chat at 1am, or that his “wife” had a suspiciously masculine voice? Christ, I don’t mind if you talk to other cabbies, man, just don’t lie to me. Maybe I should write a song about that.
While absorbing oneself in the seriousness and gravity of rock and roll life (rok lyf) can be a fulfilling act in the search for meaning, Hourly, Daily harkens back to a point in personal history where merely existing didn’t feel so grave. I reckon the change comes at the dawn of one’s post-adolescent self-definition, because before that the prefab routine of living (waking up, going to school, coming home and trying not to think about waking up and going to school the next day) meant not having to worry about finding out where to go, you were just put there and expected to show up, which you were happy enough to do because that’s where you belonged. Then they kick you out and you’re given a license to drink and you have to figure out the rest for yourself. That’s not to say that doing your best to relate to Japandroids songs is any less real or noble than getting a decent Monday to Friday job you don’t really like but lets you holiday overseas twice a year, but when you’re blasting Celebration Rock at 3am and feeling like you’re life is totally ROCK when you’re really sitting alone in your room staring at a laptop, well, you’re allowed to ponder the alternatives. Hourly, Daily makes the quiet life not seem all that bad.