What Rhymes with Cars & Girls was Tim (You Am I) Rodgers’s first solo album in 1999. Aidan Fennessy loved it so much that he wrote narrative to sit between the tracks and be told on a stage. The result has the same listenable swagger as Rogers’s songs and is as easy to enjoy as a Sunday afternoon in a cool beer garden with friends and hot chips.
Aidan Fennessy’s characters tell their story directly to the audience and re-inact the moments that changed their paths. He evokes inner-west and outer-north Sydney perfectly as 28-year-olds Johnny Carr (Johnno) and Sophie Ross (Tash) are plucked from their under-the-flight-path and harbour/ocean-view-mansion worlds to sit in a Morten Bay Fig tree as lovers who cross Sydney’s harbour and class divide. They talk about class a lot.
The metaphor-filled script shines with images like the Hills Hoist as apocalypse maypole, but is so over worked that instead of unexpected sparkles, the writing reminds that it’s memorised words rather than a story to get lost in.
This is mostly overcome as Clare Watson’s direction lets the warm and loving performances from Carr and Ross be more than a love letter to Rogers, and the split-level recording-studio design by Andrew Bailey (and Kate Davis’s character-defining costumes) makes the presence of the band feel natural, while offering a future world for the couple.
And with Rogers, now in his mid-40s, and band (Xani Kolec from the Twoks and Ben Franz) on stage (they play, the characters sing), it’s easy to feel the love for Rogers and equally as easy to send a little more his way.
I don’t know how well it would work without the presence of Rogers. It’s a sweet, if obvious, story and beautifully realised, but it’s a bit wobbly to stand alone. Which is moot because Rogers ain’t going anywhere and his old, and new, fans will love this version of the album.