Whilst You Me At Six’s name caused waves in the rock scene with their first three albums, in 2014 saw the release of ‘Cavalier Youth’, their fourth effort, and a record that fell quite dramatically under the radar. With a nostalgic title, the album seemed to yearn for the younger days of the band’s success, weaving its way through cliché song titles and drab lyrics.
Now at the beginning of 2017, the band have released their fifth record, entitled ‘Night People’, a murky, more aggressive You Me At Six, marking new territory for the pop-punk stars. Although the release sees YMA6 doing exactly what they should be by now – experimenting with a new sound to justify their real-life maturity, once again the songs seem to fall short of the mark, with much of the track list as filler, not killer.
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Where YMA6 used to swagger along with catchy riffs, infectious choruses, and clever tongue in cheeky lyrics, recently this quality that made the band so lovable since day one, has disappeared. With droning songs like ‘Plus One’ and ‘Swear’, repetition is an understatement, and the songs are about as memorable as the band’s string quarter do-over of ‘Cavalier Youth’.
Arguably, yes, the rockier songs are rockier and most bands these days are criticised in their later albums for ‘selling out’ for a more commercial and popular sound, but YMA6 have their formula the wrong way round. In their youthful days, the band were amongst the mavericks of that pop-punk/rock umbrella that celebrated leading the forefront of the emo-scene, alongside the likes of Fall Out Boy, Blink-182 and Kids in Glass Houses. As the band ‘progressed’, taking themselves a bit more seriously seems to have swallowed what made them whole in the first place. Even the title track of the new record skips along like a weak imitation of The White Stripes or such, and ‘Can’t Hold Back’, as angst-y as it is, seems to have no substance nor depth.
Despite the album’s overwhelming sense of mediocrity, there are still glimpses of Franceschi and his band’s genius, highlighted on the slow burners, ‘Take on the World’ and ‘Give’. As well-written as they are beautifully poised, the ballads demonstrate the frontman can still write an absolute corker when it counts. Another decent track is ‘Heavy Soul’ which sounds like it could be lifted straight off the flawless sophomore effort ‘Hold Me Down’ which propelled the band into the mainstream. Although a flavour of a tried and tested YMA6 on an otherwise foreign album, the track only signifies a time long gone by, and is frankly daydreaming by the boys.
Overall, the tragedy of ‘Night People’ is not its lack of instrumental innovation (that is present for sure), but rather more essentially its lyricism and musical spark. Although the band will undoubtedly still fill festival slots and sell out nation-wide tours, what the fans will desperately hold their breath for is plenty of old material compared to the new. Where the name ‘You Me At Six’ used to encourage a guilty smirk of bottomless love for the emo-outfit, what is left now is merely a crooked smile, and a polite, puzzled look of pity for the Weybridge lads. ‘Night People’ is out now via Infectious Music.