It feels like a long time since You Me At Six truly surprised us all. In the nine years since their plucky, deliciously barbed debut album ‘Take Off Your Colours’ thrust them into the spotlight, the Surrey five-piece have grown into one of the slickest, most laser-focused outfits in rock music; cranking out arena-friendly anthems with a charm that few can match.
Seeing how 2014’s ‘Cavalier Youth’ scored them their first UK #1 album, you might well expect ‘Night People’ to be an exercise in ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ songwriting. Guess again.
As opening statements go, the title track is tough to beat. Three minutes of bluesy, stomping rock ‘n’ roll swagger – complete with a soulful, yet cocksure croon from Josh Franceschi – ‘Night People’ signals that all bets are off for album five.
Conceived with the world’s biggest stages in mind YMAS have opted for a grittier, more stripped back approach; yet the unabashed lust and emotional turbulence of ‘Plus One’ underline that this is no classic rock nostalgia trip.
Rather, ‘Night People’ is the sound of You Me At Six waving goodbye to their roots, and eyeing up an even brighter future. Though a couple of these songs could have appeared on ‘Cavalier Youth’ – the brittle, beautifully spare ballad ‘Take On The World’ chief among them – there’s a more considered and (whisper it) mature feel to the likes of ‘Heavy Soul’. With its mellow, minimal riffs and understated chorus, it’s easier to imagine that song blasting out on a U.S. road trip than at a boozy club night, and it could serve them well on the airwaves. Producer Jacquire King is best known for his work with Kings Of Leon, so perhaps it’s no coincidence.
If that sounds worrying – ‘grown up’ all too often translates as ‘boring’ – it really shouldn’t be. Yes, the band are moving on and branching out, but they’re doing so in a way that feels largely natural and unforced.
From the wistful reflections of ‘Brand New’ (“If your past calls, don’t you pick it up / It’s got nothing new to say,”) to the seething slow-burn of ‘Spell It Out’ (“My darkest days have come and pulled me under / I want my moment in the sun,”) Josh’s lyrics sound as intimate as ever, navigating around the clichés that have occasionally dogged him in the past. Hell, even the middling bar-room shuffle of ‘Swear’ comes good on the chorus, while ‘Can’t Hold Back’ is elevated by some ballsy riffs from Chris Miller and Max Helyer. If they lapse into autopilot on occasion, it’s quickly remedied.
Perhaps ‘Night People’ isn’t the album we were expecting from YMAS, but it is the one they wanted (and arguably needed) to make right now. Crammed with skyscraping melodies and moments of spine-tingling poignancy, it stands them in the best possible stead for packing out stadiums and headlining festivals in the near future. They’ve fulfilled their side of the bargain with these 10 songs. Your move, world.