A full decade after releasing their debut album ‘Take Off Your Colours’, British rockers You Me At Six have gone through many stages of changing up their sound from their more punk-influenced days of the 2000s, This year’s offering, ‘VI’, is the greatest departure from what they had grown from as of recent, and the debate is on whether this works for the band or not.
Compared with their previous release, 2017’s ‘Night People’, it seems that the band are taking a more pop route than alternative or punk. The record slowly separates itself from the previous releases with the single “3AM”, which appears to stand between the heavier sound from ‘Night People’ and the new lighter sound the group are aiming for this year. It would look to set the debate on if You Me At Six are softening their sound to appeal to a wider range of listeners. Looking to stray from old-school fans of the pop-punk genre that burst into the mainstream in the 2000s and early 2010s, to finding the fans of pop-rock and the techno/dance tunes of today’s mainstream music. Of course, a band is not tied to its original sound from when they began – there are many popular examples of switching up styles working for music acts – but it is never a twist that will satisfy all. Only time will tell, and the fans’ reactions, if this is a wise decision of the band or not. There is one thing fans must agree on, however: the bassline for this track will always satisfy.
Another track, “Back Again”, further cements the band settling in the pop genre; however does contain more alternative elements than most tracks on the album’s listing.
“Back Again” swaps out heavy guitar riffs with upbeat strums. This is a tune that one would most likely hear in a nightclub in the early hours of the morning, rather than at a rebellious teenager’s house party; there is a danceable beat which is catchy and will make anyone want to get up and have a dance. The tune is reminiscent to early releases from fellow British band The 1975, and the negative is, is this a sound that listeners want to hear and associate with a group that once released more rock-rooted tracks in the past such as 2010’s “Underdog”? The sound of this song is a likeable one; despite being a leap away from what they once gave the masses, no one can deny the song is well-written and will get stuck in the head for an unconceivable amount of time. It is also one to attract new listeners – which was probably a low-key aim of You Me At Six when writing and creating most of the tracks on this album – and new listeners will broaden the range of music they are comfortable with putting out to the public.
Another track stuck between the sound of ‘Night People’ and the newer sound is the not-so-familiar, not-so-distant “Danger”. The drumbeat is a pattern that many may recognise from pop-fused tracks of recent years, and the chorus is where the listeners will here the pop influences clearer. From the guitar riffs to the harmonising vocals of lead singer Josh Franceschi standing out, this tune has a more obvious divide between punk and pop as the choruses and verses go by. Another catchy track, which will get stuck and play over and over in one’s head – and cause them to sing out loud without realising – but again, it is not a familiar sound for the group.
Overall verdict for ‘VI’ is up to every individual listener, and long-term and short-term fans. Again, it is common practice for music acts to change things up every album or every few; people’s tastes change, including artists and musicians, and these changes will influence what they create. The overall feel of ‘VI’ comes across in some areas however as an attempt to fit into the music mainstream You Me At Six were once comfortable not conforming to. The era of punk and alternative mainstream hits are very few and far apart in recent times, and it can feel hindering to a select amount of these acts. If being on the more pop/dance side of the music industry is somewhere the band wish to stay, practice is still needed. Franceschi’s vocals are not yet fitting to this style, no matter the harmonies thrown in; and the overall image of the band is not one that seems cosy in this softer genre as of yet. Over time, perhaps; during their touring period, perhaps; but if they cannot come to terms with where they are heading into, the best turn back around and embrace what they knew and played best.