Sound — 10
You Me At Six are a British pop/punk outfit from Weybridge, Greater London, who produce great American-sounding pop punk with a British edge to it. They've been around for a couple of years now and have been constantly going from strength to strength since the release of their debut album 'Take Off Your Colours', which was well received when initially released on an indie label, and subsequently re-released with a second CD after they signed to Virgin Records last year. The sound here is as with their first album; its polished, clean, huge and very well produced. Chugging guitar riffs explode from simple-yet-effective intros, leading up to massive choruses throughout and some of the most killer hooks I've ever heard. For anyone who's heard any of their previous work, I think it'd be fair to say this album is generally a lot darker both in tone and lyrical approach, but this change has meant the band has escaped the ever present trap of writing the same album twice, and with this record being the balance to the upbeat pop punk from TOYC, I'm excited to see where they go next. In terms of musical style and onnovation, there isn't much new on off here; but that isn't why you listen to a band like YMA6. The music is never overtly progressive, but a mixture of uncomplicated riffs, middle 8s and lead guitar parts put through a delay pedal at every turn give you a lasting impression that its about the sum of its parts as opposed to any standout complicated passages, and the music creates a constant torrent of unrelenting energy and emotion to provide the perfect background for Josh Franceschi's expert vocal approach. There are a few epic sound effects, like in the bridge section of Hard To Swallow, which really do add something to the way the album just sounds so damn massive. I can't wait to hear it all in a live setting and experience it with it sounding as it was written.
Lyrics — 8
So I've read in a few interviews now that the album was originally written about the joys of life and how great it is to be out playing in the sun every day, until one day Josh and his girlfriend split up, leading him to re-write his vocal melodies, hooks and lyrics all over again, making Hold Me Down a very different kind of animal. So as you can imagine, the lyrics here largely reflect what'd be a pretty dark time for any of us, along with the occasional gripe at the music industry and its efforts to excercise control over budding artists and their creativity. But there's a twist here; Josh is a fantastic lyricist. He has an incredible ability to express exactly what he's feeling whilst keeping it clever, witty and sometimes tongue-in-cheek (its how Fall Out Boy would sound if they weren't always trying too hard at their wordplay). His voice has improved since TOYC, and after a couple of listens you start to hear how layered the vocal approach is; there often two or three parts to choruses, and little preverse links are built into subtle yet intricate harmonies, before the occasional all out blast for the final chorus. I know I'm not meant to give a shining review with all tens but I mean.. I really like it. I think if I can fault it on anything, it'll be the fact that I really like to hear a double vocal approach, such as the outro to Everything Is Alright by MCS, or like, the entire first Mayday Parade album before Jason Lancaster left them in pieces, and there isn't much of that to be found here, but hey, you've gotta leave room to improve next time.
Overall Impression — 10
Now here's the part where I get to have my 2 cents, and before I do, I'd like to say that I'm not a teeny bopping 14 year old girl. I'm 20 years old, listen to countless different kinds of music from rap through rock to classical. I'ev been playing guitar for about 6 years, and I'd like to think I have a pretty open mind. I've read a fair few piss poor reviews of this album by people who just don't seem to understand the concept of genre. I've outlined it here on UG before, but I'll do so again for the sake of it. Not every album that gets released by any band will be totally orginal. Things will have been done before and said before, and they're gonna be done and said again. The idea of genre is that the people doing the same things can be grouped together, and if you like one band's version of it, you may like another bands version of doing do it, because believe it or not, there IS diversity within a genre. YMA6's brand of pop punk IS different to Boys Like Girls' version, and if you happen to enjoy the pop punk genre, and you've listened to it for longer than the five minutes it takes to denounce something as a heap of shit, then you'll hear and know the difference. So for anyone who reviews this album or comments on this review claiming it's shit because the band aren't doing anything new or excitingly original - you're missing the point. You don't listen to You Me At Six for avant garde progressive rock with half the lyrics sung in Japanese, a quarter in English and a third in Flemish, with the rest being done in sign language. You listen to them because you like their approach to a tried and tested idea more than you like anyone else's. And I really do. To me, this is the best pop punk band I've ever listened to. Both of the albums have been huge, lasting sing along hits to me, with a seemingly rare edge delivered both by way of its simplicity and the lyrics on offer. At first I was more into the only songs I'd previously heard from the record, The Consequence and Underdog, but after god knows how many plays now, I'm finding little background riffs and more vocal layers in every song. Current favourites are Hard To Swallow and Contagious Chemistry, but I'm sure they'll change again and again in the next few weeks. Like I've said already, I'm a firm believer in in-genre variation, and this band really do just seem to have found the formula that works. I love how they manage to make everything sound so simple at face level, yet you'll constantly discover new parts as you continue listening, and even though what Josh is singing has been sung and sung again (Come one... everyone's split up with their girlfriend, very few people have enjoyed it, but its obviously been an important event and if you were gonna write an album having just experienced it... of course it'd be the subject for much of the album.), I can't help but feel like its easier to connect to his way of expressing things. Better yet, its all put together in such a way that in spite of it being fairly painful and depressing in some areas, its still epicly enjoyable and with hooks like these, its more addictive than smoking. Trust me on that one, I can have a cigarette every now and then and not care about when the next one is coming, if at all, but I find myself looking forward to the next 45 minutes I'll get on my own to blast this album out of my sound system. If you like pop punk/emo then you should LOVE this. If you don't... then steer clear? Listen to something you'll enjoy, instead of bashing what you don't. I'm gonna give a ten here because it really does leave one hell of an impression on me, and I cannot wait to see it performed live in March. I saw these guys on tour last year, and I have to say they had one of the most energetic, friendly and fun performances I've ever seen, not to mention the way they took to the stage, which really was just something else. If you were at any of the dates on that show, you'll know.