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Album review: You Me At Six - VI


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You Me At Six have contracted several musical identities over the span of their six albums; from My Chemical Romance-esque angst fuelled pop-punk in Take Off Your Colours, to more palatable soft-rock for the mass audiences in Cavalier Youth, and Radio 1-geared rock in Night People. However, VI seems quite unsure of its sonic identity.

The singles pre-released from the album are an exemplification of an existential uncertainty and feel like they've been produced by different artists. ‘Fast Forward’, VI’s opener, allies itself with old ‘emo-angst’ You Me At Six, with a quiet, electro-percussive opening, slapped in the face by pungent drums and wailing electric guitar chords. There is the recognisable grit in Franceschi’s vocals fuelling the song’s aggressive lyrics, When you feel the fire is gone / I'll pour some gasoline on”. ‘Straight to My Head’ and ‘Predictable’ are gritty in their vocals, sticking between the teeth in their cathartic choruses.

Contrastingly, many of the tracks on the album exist in the going-nowhere drift of indie pop-rock. ‘Back Again’, though an undeniable bop with its competently funky bassline, is sugary sweet and filled with dizzy 1975-style hooks, showcasing a completely different tone and range to Franceschi’s voice. Similarly, ‘3AM’ is abundant with a drum-machine style beat, catchy indie-boy-band guitar hooks and a healthy dose of auto-tune. ‘Danger’ is also endowed with a danceable pop-punk bassline and compelling running arpeggio riffs, whilst ‘Pray For Me’ is unrecognisable, almost entirely absent of the booming bass hooks that You Me At Six are so deeply associated with. Though there is not much inherently wrong with these songs, the stark contrast in styles is jarring and mildly confusing.

The gap is bridged to an extent by marrying several opposing genres. ‘Miracle in the Mourning’ has a sense of urgency in its syncopated chorus, both rhythmically and lyrically, “In the mourning you’ll need a miracle / In the past you were satirical”.  ‘IOU’ is driven by dark, minimalist Royal Blood-esque bass hooks which are intensified by subtle autotuned minor harmonies to the song's climax, but a rather disappointing bass drop with decorative synths breaks the cycle.

The album’s closer ‘Losing You’ is analogous to ‘Cold Night’ or ‘Wild Ones’ - Franceschi’s voice caresses the lyrics (“I can’t stand losing you after all we’ve been through”) in its soft huskiness, complemented by piano chords and subtle guitar wriggles. The use of a vocoder to modify and layer the harmonies is successful here; the end of the song focuses on this, in an A Capella style. This track is sing-a-long concert ready.

VI is an adventure, and is for the most part, successful in its stylistic experimentation. However, You Me At Six seem unsure of their own identity in the way they've attempted to marry together so many different styles in one album; whilst trying to progress in the sound they simultaneously regress to previous styles.

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