You Me At Six – ‘VI’

By Yasmin Brown

Like most bands who have a solid grasp of the music industry in 2018, You Me At Six have acknowledged and embraced the need to develop their sound over the years, and their sixth album – unsurprisingly named ‘VI’ – is no exception to this trend.

With each album, You Me At Six have experimented with new sounds, and while it’s commonly agreed that they peaked with ‘Sinners Never Sleep’ back in 2011, the anger that fuelled that album was never going to persist long enough to fuel the next three. And nor should it have to.

In the seven years that have passed since then, the band has grown monumentally, with their life experiences and a persistently changing industry causing their music to grow with them, leading us to where they are today with ‘VI’. This is an album that you can dance to; it’s driven by funky bass lines and catchy riffs, but on closer inspection you find more layers to peel back, and more meaningful lyrics disguised under these musical elements.

Opening track, ‘Fast Forward’ is something of a red herring, being the heaviest track on the album (if you can really call it ‘heavy’), and is bound to remain a fan favourite – particularly for those who became fans back in the ‘Hold Me Down’ days. It’s the perfect choice for the record’s opening track given that it’s as much about moving forward as a band, as it is about frontman Josh Franceschi’s own life. It’s an introduction to what’s to come, a perfect integration of the new synth driven direction that YMAS have embraced, and the underlying influence of rock music that we’ve grown used to over the years.

‘Fast Forward’ leads jaggedly into ‘Straight To My Head’, a track that is likely going to find fans sniffing back tears as they easily apply it to their own lives. You Me At Six are notorious for their uncanny ability to write relatable and often heart-wrenching love songs, and while this one is home to a library of stunning, romantic lyrics, they’re bathed in a killer bass line, some expertly implemented synths, and anthemic sing-along hooks thrown in for good measure, making it destined to be one of the most loved tracks on ‘VI’.

‘Back Again’ is the dance track we never knew we needed (or, quite frankly, wanted) from You Me At Six. While upon first listen its repetitive chorus might cause it to appear shallow, if given enough of a chance, you’ll find yourself singing along before you even realise you know the lyrics. Despite its darker themes surrounding apparent substance abuse and anti-depressants, it’s undoubtedly the most fun track on the record alongside ‘3AM’ – the first single from the album and our first introduction to this new synth-pop side to You Me At Six.

Sandwiched between the two is ‘Miracle In The Mourning’, blending in and rendering itself somewhat forgettable before the RnB influences become apparent and you’re forced to acknowledge how brave it is to branch out into such a genre when your fan base predominantly comes from your pop-punk days. It’s this track that firmly showcases the music industry’s increasing reluctance to stick to one genre, being an amalgamation of aspects from a number of polarising influences. This experimental approach has allowed for the creation of a track that is unlike anything we’ve ever heard from this band before.

The talent of bassist, Matt Barnes, is evident throughout the album, but never more so than in ‘IOU’, relying heavily on a bass line that perfectly capture the sexy, sultry vibe that this outstanding track deserves. Comparatively, ‘Pray for Me’ is softer and slower, and yet is reminiscent of ‘Night People’s’ ‘Spell It Out’ in terms of its ability to incite a tightness in your chest that you can’t quite put your finger on. You Me At Six often rely on lyrics to provoke an emotional response, but as with ‘Spell It Out’, the emotion that is felt while listening to ‘Pray For Me’ comes from the music itself, emphasising the band’s often underrated songwriting ability.

‘Predictable’ is as provocative and angry as you might expect, with more of an indie-rock feel to it than the rest of the record, while still maintaining the electronic sounds that seem to be the driving force of this record. It leads seamlessly into ‘Danger’, which once again encourages you to get off your feet and dance one last time before the album closes with ‘Losing You’. Once again, this is one of those softer, romantic tracks in which You Me At Six excel.

With layered vocals and experimental ‘twinkly’ sounds during the chorus, it’s a song that fills you with the love that so clearly went into making it. The track closes with Franceschi’s isolated vocals, accompanied only by auto tuned harmonies. It’s a questionable creative decision, being a sharp departure from the majority of the track, and yet as with the rest of the record, the band has embraced it without regret or, indeed, apologies, and its authenticity and sincerity ensures that it remains just as enjoyable as every other moment that precedes it.

It’s clear that You Me At Six embraced any spark of an idea that came to them during the writing process of ‘VI’, refusing more than ever to be tied down by the confines of genre. It was a risk, but one that has paid off as ‘VI’ unapologetically takes you from the outright, unabashed pop found in ‘Back Again’, to subtle RnB undertones in ‘Miracle in the Morning’, combining all of the best parts of their previous five albums and making something magical.

Despite the plethora of influences, there’s no debating that this album is You Me At Six through and through, and while some may question this new direction, it may well be You Me At Six at their very best yet.

YASMIN BROWN

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