Album Review: Night People - You Me At Six
By Declan Sherry
Nearly a decade after their debut album Take Off Your Colours (2008), Surrey rockers You Me At Six drop fifth full length album Night People - and it’s a break from the norm for the band.
Night People art direction by Shoreditch-based creatives Studio Juice
Opener and title track "Night people" kicks off the proceedings: a stomping, dark, sleazy blues rock number and it’s unlike what I think anyone was expecting from the band. The bluesy intro riff only gives way to a moody piano and distorted guitar-led verse before the sleaze returns for the chorus. The riffs on the track wouldn’t be out of place on a new Arctic Monkeys release; equating them with such a band highlights what I feel the opener and the rest of the album go on to do: to create a record to prove they can headline festivals far bigger than their 2015 headline slot at Slam Dunk and, as we will see, they add more anthems to their roster that would easily get an arena bouncing and singing back.
"Plus One" seems to flow smoothly on, a faster track with smooth verses and a driven chorus. The opening riff supports a definite change in musical direction, and seems somewhat a far cry from Surrey and the bands debut, with a far slicker, polished American sound. However polished this sound may be, it seems somewhat inauthentic.
"Night People" video directed by duo Ryan Vernava and Liam Achaibou (Brainwash).
"We wanted to use custom analogue distortions to try and create a frenetic and visually mesmerising performance video. Something moody, lo-fi and colourful that plays up the raw energy of the track and presents the band in a way we’ve not seen before."
We next get a lighter song with an lively opening riff straight off the Scott Pilgrim soundtrack before a held back, mellow verse. A light and repetitive yet catchy chorus seems to hold an essence of older material yet mixed in with the newer more - dare I say it - ‘mature’ sounding rock they’ve adapted to. I say mature as I feel this is where the band were going with this change in pace. Whilst being rather minimal in parts the song is really effective, and comes over rather radio friendly. Surely this would be one for Radio One to eat up? "Take on the World" is also a stripped back song at first, and for this Josh Franceschi’s voice is perfect. You can really hear the emotion in the breathiness of his vocals over the soft guitar with a Thirty-Seconds-to-Mars-esque feel to it, even when the song kicks in the track wouldn’t be too far out of place featured on a more recent record of theirs.
“Brand New” has an 80’s and 90’s like feel that sounds somewhat familiar of late with bands like The 1975 drawing inspiration from the same font but with elements of country written in. The lyrics from the outset echo the nostalgic basis of the music, with Franceschi singing about broken relationships with people and how you can move on from them. Wishing the listener well with finding someone new, the country elements of the song surprise me that Martin Johnson isn’t a credited writer as this wouldn’t be out of place on Boys Like Girl’s third album Crazy World (2012). "Swear" then returns to a livelier pace and this is the closest the band come to their roots with a bass driven pop rock number with staples of the band’s past sound interwoven with a more lustrous rock vibe. The lyrics for me though let the nostalgia trip down as they seem inauthentic and bland with no real essence of Franceschi coming forward in them.
"Swear" video directed by band collaborator Jon Stone, shot at London's Shepherd's Bush Empire
"Make Your Move" is a song rife with pop like repetition and short verses. The band put forward a gleaming pop rock track below, but the song doesn’t seem to be too far removed from a Killers song, even if it does have what the band seem to muster up to be a breakdown towards the end of the track. The lyrics again feel somewhat frail compared to what the band used to say to me near on ten years ago. But "Can’t Hold Back" sees the return of the sleazy guitar riffs from the album's opener, returning to kick the track off yet the band opt again for a more minimalist, relaxed verse before a roaring chorus, which personally seems to cheapen the song since we’ve already heard the format on two tracks already. The lyrics however I feel have improved from songs we’ve already seen, with the lyrics talking about giving in to the appeal of an ex-lover even knowing how toxic they are. Lyrics sure to resonate with younger fans growing up and learning their way in relationships. An emotionally and musically raw track, "Spell it out" begins with all we have from the band: an eerie lone guitar playing below an emotional Franceschi before a second guitar, and a very deft drum beat playing along to the rhythm of the song. Lines such as: "I won’t give up on me, if you don’t too", and: “My darkest days have come, and pulled me under”, show just how exposed Franceschi makes himself as he pours out his self doubts and darker thoughts into the mic before the sleazy blues rock style of the intro creeps back in with some definite angst. This moodiness compliments the track well and it would be a brilliant track to close out the album with its slow fade out, ending as it started with just vocals over a lone guitar. But it is the final track "Give" that starts again rather stripped-back, with a sombre feel to it before a chorus where the mood picks up with the guitar, prompting a wounded Franceschi to take on a rougher vocal style: "“What are you searching for? What are you looking for”.
While the album definitely has its strong tracks, I feel the band were inexperienced with writing what they wanted to create. At times the album comes across as a little phony and poorly pieced together - in some parts experimental. This could though just be a sign that the band are finding their feet in what could still be the next step of their careers, since they can’t go on for ever making cheery pop-rock about promiscuity and drinking, can they?