Veteran Australian quartet You Am I plays a distinctive brand of noisy, backbeat-happy rock that isn't quite garage, punk, or power-pop. It's in that nebulous region between New York Dolls and Dwight Twilley: too loud and rowdy to win over the hooks-and-polish crowd, too subtle for the bash-'til-it-bleeds-set. Like Canada's Sloan, You Am I has a huge following at home, but hasn't had much luck cracking the U.S. market. Odds are, the band's seventh album, Convicts, won't change its fortunes, and in a way, that's to its credit. Convicts sounds exactly as a You Am I record should. It's equal parts sweet and mean, and it doesn't much care if nobody comes knocking.
Kicking off with the raver "Thank God I've Hit The Bottom"—and its grabber opening line, "I've got dime bags stacked up like trophy wives!"—Convicts proceeds from one explosive rocker to the next, nodding occasionally to the blues and The Kinks, but mostly barreling through the kind of clattering songs that relent just long enough for bandleader Tim Rogers to grunt out the next line. The record peaks with the neo-punk "Nervous Kid," a searing loser anthem that bookends the catchy album-closer "I'm A Mess." Even when You Am I jangles it up with the relatively low-key "Secrets," and pays homage to the cool-boy posturing of Gene Vincent, Rogers still runs himself down, calling himself "just another face in the crowd." Of course, Rogers may only be pretending to be benign, to maneuver someone into bed. But even if You Am I's toughness is a pose, the bruises it leaves behind are real.