You Me At Six
Sinners Never Sleep
03 October 2011
by Mischa Pearlman
Back in 2008, around this very time of year, a slew of incredibly hostile and grammatically-imprecise comments were thrown in my direction. The reason? A review I wrote of You Me At Six’s debut album. You can read it here. My personal favourite was from a rather pleasant chap called Stuart Lunken: “You Are a Fucking DickHead!” he wrote. “Im Guna Find Where You Live And Actually Rip Your Fucking Head Off.” (sic) Raaacch made a well-argued point, too – “you need a new pair off ears and a different job cuz your obviosly utter shit at this one” (sic) – while Will made a very reasoned and measured statement: “the writer is obviously a spastic”. To be fair, Natalie, behind a string of misspelled words – or shuld tht b werdz? – made a valid point: “fuck off!!u basically tuk a luk at a foto of them and decided u didnt lyk them, it happens 2 b an amazin album and hes not from fuckin dorset” (sic). She’s right. Josh Franceschi isn’t from Dorset. I got Weybridge (in Surrey, where YM@6 originate) confused with Weymouth (which is in Dorset) – and for that, I can only apologise. Nevertheless, the point – about him singing in a nasally, affected American accent when he’s actually from England remains the same. As does my opinion of the album. It’s truly terrible.
But that’s the past. It’s now October 2011. Three years have passed and these five whippersnappers have gone from strength to strength. And good on ’em. While I stand by my review of that debut LP, the band have clearly worked extremely hard to get as far as they have and I don’t begrudge them any success whatsoever. They undoubtedly deserve it. What depresses me, in this post-X Factor society, is how a lot of people, equate success with talent, quantity with quality. Here’s Raaacch again: “well im not being funny you me at six have rather alot of fans! enough to make them sing on the main stage at reading and leeds to they blatently are not shit!” By that line of thought, Joe McElderry, Boyzone, Susan Boyle, N-Dubz and any other commercially successful artist are valid and brilliant artists. Quite clearly, they’re not. They’re part of a cynical, corporate machine that plays to the general population’s generally undemanding and undiscerning taste when it comes to music – they eat what they’re being fed. YM@6 don’t, obviously, fall into that category, but to say their success validates their output is bullshit. It should be the other way around. Besides, there are plenty of incredibly talented bands – and authors and poets and actors and artists – who never make it. That doesn’t make them shit. It just makes life harder for them, and means that many fewer people will be aware of their talent. Which is pretty sad.
Watch the video to ‘Loverboy’ by You Me At Six:
Anyway, back to You Me At Six. Their third album came out yesterday (03 October 2011). It’s called Sinners Never Sleep and it presents, within its twelve songs, a desire for the band to move on and away from their earlier adolescent outpourings to something more… mature and substantial. To be fair, they’ve managed to do it. Not that it’s particularly hard compared to that first effort, but nonetheless, credit should be given to the band for wanting to push their own boundaries – even compared to last year’s second full-length, they have noticeably elevated their efforts to be taken seriously and move away from the pop-punk bracket that helped make their name. It’s ironic, then, that album opener and lead single ‘Loverboy’ bounces along with the same jaunty whimsy of old, but with not-so-subtle pretensions of musical maturity. It’s alright – nothing incredible, but nothing terrible. An improvement, certainly. It’s a theme that runs throughout the album – ‘Jaws On The Floor’ and ‘Bite My Tongue’ are determined and anthemic, if rather generic, outbursts of emotional introspection – but which hint at the direction the band are trying – if not quite succeeding to go in. On the latter, Bring Me The Horizon vocalist Oli Sykes lends a bit of raucous screaming to its tense, staccato tune, which saves it – just – from turning into a bizarre blast of commercial radio rock. Still, take away Syke’s gruff growls and this could easily be a Nickelback tribute song. ‘This Is The First Thing’, by contrast, is pure pop pap, full of clichés and saccharine sentiment – a demonstration that, as much as they might want to move on, the band are also savvy enough to know what their audience desire and expect. Similarly, ‘Crash’ is a slow, tender ballad that pushes the pop-punk away in favour of string-laden sappy sentimentality. Sure, it’s stirring and full of earnest passion, but so are Celine Dion songs…
The problem, it seems, is that You Me At Six are uncertain which direction to move in. As a result they’ve made an album that flits between who they were and who they want to be, but not one that really demonstrates who they actually are. Floundering between the past and the future, they seem to have forgotten about the present, and lack the courage of their convictions to really be themselves. Until, that is, final song, ‘When We Were Younger’. A gloomy, moody ode to lost youth and broken dreams, it’s a stark and boldly haunting statement that easily eclipses anything else on this album – and in their back catalogue. The chorus – “I’m singing ‘Ooh ooh ooh’” – could be more lyrically incisive, but it’s the first and only time on this album that the band sound truly comfortable – that they’re not consciously trying to be something they’re not, but are simply channelling their emotions in the most honest way they can. And it works. It’s not enough to elevate this album above anything less than mediocre, but it’s a sign that the future could well yield fruitful results. It’s also a hell of a lot better than what they managed three years ago. Not, I imagine, that that will quell the torrent of abusive invective to follow. So I may as well start it off: “I iz a fukn d…” Actually – fuck that. There are more important things to worry about. It’s only pop music, after all.
Top Track: When We Were Younger
Sounds Like: indecision.