Once upon a time, You Me At Six used to be one of my favourite bands. I knew all the lyrics, I knew all the band members’ names and used to metaphorically kick myself that I missed out on the chance to see them headline Wembley in 2012. Back when ‘Cavalier Youth’ was released, I was hyped. I had a countdown on my phone and everything—and the day of release I zoomed off to the record store, spent a good half hour searching through the poorly alphabetised shelves and finally stumbled across the deluxe edition, which I happily forked out some extra money for. But, as is the way of things—over the years, I lost track of them, I forgot why I loved them. And I guess with good reason. Since the release of ‘Cavalier Youth’ in 2014, You Me At Six kind of disappeared off the reservation. Back in the train-wreck that was 2016—there was hope. You Me At Six announced a new song (Night People) and a new album due to drop in January of 2017. So, let’s have a look whether the album made me rekindle my love for this British quartet.
The biggest question here is: did this album hold up to my expectations? Yes and no.
Let’s have a look at the opening track, ‘Night People’ (which was also the first song to be released from the album). The song starts off with a heavy bass and Josh Franceschi’s gruff vocals. It definitely has more of an electronic feel to it—and in terms of musical content it’s certainly nothing we would have heard on Cavalier Youth and with a catchy chorus it makes it hard to fault the song. Despite the change the band has gone through—this definitely feels like a You Me At Six song through and through—you’d be hard pressed to mistake it for anything else.
‘Heavy Soul’ is another strong song, even if the title does remind me heavily of Twenty One Pilots’ heavydirtysoul (yes, the main reason I mentioned this song was so that I could make that joke), but that’s where the similarities end. The more prominent drums here definitely make me think that this was a song that perhaps belonged on Cavalier Youth as it has that summery feel that I’ve come to associate with that album. It’s easily my favourite song off the album with a beautiful blend of all the things that worked on Cavalier Youth and a hint of the musical changes the band have made for this record.
Skip forward a couple of songs and you’ll find ‘Brand New’ (must not make a reference to the band), which like the preceding song (‘Take on the World’) has more of a ballad like feel to it. Like ‘Heavy Soul’, this song only goes from strength to strength, with a slow, haunting melody and lyrics that are so poignant that it immediately makes you question your life choices. The song has a wonderful message about not looking to the past because there’s nothing waiting for you there (and if your past calls/don’t you pick it up/it’s got nothing new to say). Like most of the songs on this album this song gives the band to show off their maturity and we get to see just how much they’ve grown as people since their debut album in 2008 (Take Off Your Colours).
Unfortunately, the latter half of the record is not as strong or likeable. Following up from the beauty that is ‘Brand New’, the next two songs spiral into confusion. ‘Swear’ is definitely one of the most different sounding tracks on the album—very reminiscent of something you could have heard on ‘Sinners Never Sleep’. However, the experiment and throwback does not work—the fast guitar and drums make the whole song sound rushed and messy—it’s one of the weakest (if not the worst) song on the record without a doubt. It doesn’t pack the same kind of lyrical or musical punch that the preceding songs managed to do with ease. Though this and ‘Make Your Move’ are both equally as catchy as the rest of the songs here—but I can’t quite figure out if they’re actually good or not or whether they’re just background noise.
So, what’s the verdict? I perhaps put too much pressure on this album—I wanted this to be the record that made me love YMAS again. And, in a sense, it was. The beginning of the album was incredibly strong, with catchy melodies and infectious choruses that entice you into singing along right from the first listen (and no doubt that the more I hear them the more I’ll love it). It’s an album meant to be played live, with thousands of people screaming the lyrics, and like the huge tours YMAS do—the album feels big. Sure, there’s a couple of tracks that aren’t necessarily great but to have 8/10 songs be incredibly strong and thought out is still an achievement. Just when I thought I’d forget about YMAS entirely they go and prove me wrong and I’ll be continuing to play this record and pay attention to them for years to come.
Written by Asya Kardzhaliyska
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