Music editor Jayde Smyth reviews the fourth record from pop-rock band You Me At Six as it gains the band their first number one album in the chart.
Since arriving on the music scene with their first album ‘Take Off Your Colours’ in 2008, this Surrey quintet have steadily increased in popularity, recognition and sales. The secret to their success? A loyal fan base, sure, but really it’s a sound that grows on you until you fall asleep with the songs stuck in your head. And that’s exactly what ‘Cavalier Youth’ does. I have to admit, when I first listened to the album I was surprised. Once again, the band has completely changed their style but still keep that spark that is simply You Me At Six.
The album starts strong with ‘Too Young to Feel this Old’, launching with a fast steady drum beat and an overpowering guitar riff before frontman Josh Franceschi’s vocals take over. His voice is strangely gentle and slightly strained, giving it a delicious texture throughout (although it makes it hard to sing along to without sounding like a strangled cat). The lyrics are, in a word, sweet; a love song wrapped in a pop-rock coating and it works. The chorus of “woahs” show the song was written with a live audience in mind. It’s a hopeful song with a steady beat and cheesy lyrics that you can’t help but sing along to.
Following straight after is the first radio single ‘Lived a Lie’ which debuted at number 11 in the charts and is also on the official soundtrack for FIFA 2014. The typical You Me At Six radio song; very clean cut and accessible for mainstream audiences, with simple lyrics, but a catchy chorus that redeems the song. The third track ‘Fresh Start Fever’ was next to be released and is the significantly better single. The piano opening is an unusual style for the band, but it works well. The song is slightly edgier, and we hear more of the growl that Franceschi has favoured on the past few records. The steady drumbeat over the “Oh heart of mine, sing a sad song” bridge, builds tension before launching into a heavy chorus that will certainly have crowds jumping on their tour.
‘Forgive and Forget’ and ‘Room to Breathe’ continue the rockier feel of the album. There is a distinct angry sound to both tracks, but the former has a slight tinge of sadness to it. The slower and hypnotic bass work beautifully whilst Franceschi slowly drawls out the lyrics. It’s sour, and reflects the feel of a messy break up. The latter is one of my preferred tracks on the record; reminiscent of ‘Little Death’ on their previous album ‘Sinners Never Sleep’. The guitar riffs are heavy and the drumming keeps pace and tone with Franceschi’s painfully angry vocals, raising the bar vocally in this track from low growling through gritted teeth to belting out an edgy chorus.
‘Win Some, Lose Some’ and ‘Cold Nights’ are two of the better tracks on the record. The first carries on the bitter tone from the previous two songs, the lyrics are catchy, the vocals low throughout the bridges of “Get away, get away, get away from me/I’m moving on, I’m moving on to better things.” It’s a crowd pleaser for certain, and the low bass clashes perfectly with the rumbled vocals. The second, ‘Cold Nights’, is the typical love song which features on every You Me At Six album. It is slower and smoother than previous tracks, and sounds a little like a Kids in Glass Houses song but it’s a nice change of pace.
‘Hope for the Best’ was released as a teaser for the fans before the album launch, and is very similar in style to ‘Lived A Lie’. Despite being catchy it’s one of the weaker songs on the album. ‘Love Me Like You Used To’ is my personal favourite, going back to the fast pace, angry riffs and rumbling vocals and is one of the stronger lyrical tracks. ‘Be Who You Are’ is an unusual song for the band; only 1 minute 48 seconds long, but is a sweet and lyrically beautiful track. All three songs capture the contrasting sounds of the album well.
The album ends on one strong and one weak song. ‘Carpe Diem’ reflects the journey of the band; incorporating both the rock and pop sides and has a chorus that will have the crowds on their feet. If the album had ended on this song, I would have tipped my hat to the band. ‘Wild Ones’, in my opinion, is probably the weakest track on the album. At five minutes long, it gets a little boring. Sure, You Me At Six are no strangers to longer songs (‘Crash’ is one of my all-time favourites) but this is just a lot of repetitive lyrics and beats.
Overall, the album is a solid 8 out of 10, and has some of the best musical and lyrical material the band has ever released. It’s cleaner than their last album, but the band changes their sound so often it gets hard to predict which direction they will follow next. However, I’m left wondering how the album will fare live. Franceschi has pushed himself vocally and often has trouble consistently hitting the notes on tour without blowing his voice. Out of all their records, this album is certainly the one which deserves the top spot in the album charts.
Cavalier Youth is out now, and You Me At Six start their UK tour in M