We may only be two weeks into 2021, but the race for album of the year has begun and never was there such a strong contender as You Me At Six’s seventh studio album, ‘SUCKAPUNCH’.
Don’t be put off by the name. ‘SUCKAPUNCH’ may not sound like the mature, progressive venture we’re eager to hear next from our long time favourite band, but in actuality, that’s a pretty damn near perfect description of this album. You may have fallen in and out of love with You Me At Six over the years – there have been times where it’s felt as though they’ve struggled to keep up with an evolving industry – but with these 11 tracks, it feels like they’ve finally found their feet again.
Recorded in Thailand with producer Dan Austin (‘VI’), ‘SUCKAPUNCH’ is a chaotic cacophony of sounds, free from boundaries and expectation, and while the standalone singles did at times seem confusing and disjointed, when listened to in the full album setting, they work better than you could have expected. It is, paradoxically, cohesive in its incohesiveness.
Carrying the whole album is You Me At Six’s guitar-driven undertones, but it’s immediately apparent that the members of this band have – with many of their followers – grown to embrace different and often contradictory genres. Most notably, when the fourth track, ‘WYDRN’, kicks in, you’ll find yourself taken aback by the stark R&B nature of this synth-driven track. Sonically, it’s a progression on the band’s previous sound, but it also sees maturity in regards to the lyrics, too. “If this is the end, you know I still wish you the best” is a far cry from the angsty and bitter break up lyrics found in the band’s earliest material and for the first (but not last) time, you really appreciate just how much You Me At Six have grown up.
‘WYDRN’ is not alone in its genre exploration, either. You Me at Six build on the dance foundations laid down by album’s first single ‘What’s It Like’ through the five-minute title track ‘SUCKAPUNCH’. While usually you may associate such music with shallow lyrics, this track acts as an emotional kick to the gut, painting a picture of what it’s like to rise up from something broken and finally focus on you. Despite the dancey undertones, front man Josh Franceschi’s vocals and the consistent fast pace still encompass the band’s pop-punk beginnings, cemented by the huge build up that brings the track to a close. ‘Kill the Mood’, too, while vastly different in sound – this one is slow, stead and sultry, driven by synthetic drum beats – leaves you with a similar feeling, and is arguably soon to be among the ranks of 2017’s ‘Spell It Out’ as one of the band’s most understated yet impressive songs to date.
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It’s important to acknowledge, too, however, that it’s not only these left-field tracks that show growth. The album’s first three tracks, ‘Nice to Me’, ‘MAKEMEFEELALIVE’ and ‘Beautiful Way’ are all predominantly built on the familiar guitar-driven foundations that you’ll find in the band’s entire back catalogue. They too, however, are more mature and fierce than we’ve experienced from You Me At Six before. The punchy vocals that fuel ‘Nice to Me’ and ‘MAKEMEFEELALIVE’ highlight Franceschi’s vocal improvements – strong and authentic, moving even further away from the Americanised tones than ever – and the latter’s heavy punk sound is unexpectedly jarring yet impactful, especially given its abrupt finish. These songs, along with the catchy pop-rock, bass heavy ‘Adrenaline’ and the inspirational rock track ‘Voicenotes’, scream You Me At Six, and although it may be in a way we’ve never heard them before, it still feels like coming home.
And speaking of home, are there any You Me At Six songs that feel more familiar than their infamous ballads? When you imagine ‘Glasgow’, you should expect to feel how you did the first time you heard the likes of ‘Fireworks’, ‘Tigers and Sharks’ and ‘Take On the World’, and there’s even a lyrical nod to ‘Stay With Me’ for the OG fans. This stunning track sees some of Franceschi’s strongest lyrics brought to life through its melancholy and steady build up before the goosebumps cover your body as it draws to a close. If you’ve ever once asked yourself, “Where did that You Me At Six go?”, here you’ll find yourself realising that they never went anywhere at all.
‘SUCKAPUNCH’ really does bring something for everyone. Older fans will be cast back to the soundtrack to their teen years and realise just how much they’ve grown alongside the five members of You Me At Six, while others who have perhaps never given the band the time of day before will find themselves drawn in through their shameless embracing of unexpected influences. Best of all, however, is just how genuine this record feels in its approach; passion seeps out of every note and every word, and it’s so clear that You Me At Six believe in ‘SUCKAPUNCH’ just as their fans doubtlessly will, too.