Known for their melody-dense, radio rock, You Me At Six tread down a darker path on their seventh studio album SUCKAPUNCH. Featuring biting vocal performances, dalliances with hip-hop, and a renewed sense of alt-rock conviction, it’s hard not to hope that this won’t be their last. Gemma Cockrell offers her thoughts.
With their seventh album SUCKAPUNCH, You Me At Six return to the moodier tenor reminiscent of 2011’s brooding Sinners Never Sleep. It’s an unexpected move into deeper and darker territory that shifts away from the clean and predictable modern rock that they have fallen victim to in recent years, and instead shows fearless experimentation with wacky electronic and R&B elements. This is a band looking to establish themselves at the cutting edge of modern British rock.
The first two tracks, Nice To Me and MAKEMEFEELALIVE, feel light-years away from the You Me At Six that we have seen on records like Cavalier Youth (2014) and Night People (2017). The angst and aggression laced within the instrumentals give the band’s sound a fresh and vital face-lift; essential for a band who has admitted to feeling as though they had lost their spark during recent years. Nice To Me is a guitar-propelled rock banger, to be expected of the album opener, whereas MAKEMEFEELALIVE flirts more with the experimental – a punchy burst of jangly, punk energy lasting only two minutes.
‘It’s hard not to imagine a sweat-doused audience screaming, “we’re f**ked up in a beautiful way.”’
This back-to-back angst is dissipated by Beautiful Way, a track more similar to the You Me At Six that fans have become accustomed to. A certified festival anthem with a magnetic sing-along chorus, it’s hard not to imagine a sweat-doused audience screaming, “We’re f**ked up in a beautiful way.” Follow-up cut, Adrenaline matches this energy with its insatiable riff-line fit for a sold-out arena tour. The characteristic moody and melancholic undertones can still be felt throughout though, despite it being in a more understated way, masked by the catchy and memorable choruses.
Mid-track WYDRN demonstrates that despite being seven albums deep in their career, You Me At Six are unafraid to explore new territory. Chunky beats and electronic synths power the track from the bottom-up and contribute to the refreshing lease of life that has evidently been discovered when recording this album. Though far from revolutionary and never straying too far from the rock zeitgeist, it is a step in the right direction for a band seeking to maintain contemporary relevance. The LP’s title track SUCKAPUNCH explores similar progressive experimentations with great success, and after a dense, tension-building, and electronic first half, an explosive rock chorus demonstrates a glorious sense of balance.
Glasgow is another track that utilises this gradual building structure; a slow-burning build-up of energy that begins as a somber and sincere ballad but reaches its unpredictably fierce and emotional crescendo roughly four minutes deep. The strength of the song lies in its immense sense of journey; developing from a slow-burning indie ballad into the explosive and euphoric repetition of “we’ve got to stitch us back together,” in the outro. Despite SUCKAPUNCH and Glasgow being the longest songs on the record, the sudden changes in tone prevent them from ever feeling boring or monotonous.
Moody R&B-tinged undertones ebb and flow throughout the contrasting Kill The Mood. It’s a deep cut that may go unnoticed or disregarded by some listeners, but the band’s blending of electronic and R&B influences whilst preserving the aggressive energy of the rock genre is remarkable. A seamless blend of two opposing genres without ever feeling forced or out of place, it is amongst the most impressive moments on SUCKAPUNCH. Voicenotes, despite not being as experimental as the rest of the record, is still an enjoyable listen. Following the well-loved verse to chorus formula, however, it is arguably amongst the record’s most predictable listens. It feels like a classic, old-school You Me At Six track and arguably still has its place on the tracklist, however.
‘It’s remarkable for a rock record to feel this energised when coming from a band seven albums deep in their career.’
Despite their experimentations, You Me At Six clearly haven’t forgotten the past few years as Josh Franceschi asks, “Are you the one who’s living a lie?” on Finish What I Started – a subtle lyrical nod to their 2014 track Lived a Lie. Despite being originally recorded in 2018, it was left off their sixth record VI (2018) due to its deep and dark lyrical content. However, it fits the dingy mood of SUCKAPUNCH immaculately, and 2021 was undeniably the right moment for its release.
Album closer What’s It Like might be the most experimental cut on the whole record, incorporating dance and hip-hop instrumental influences alongside vocals infused with a confident swagger typical of the hip-hop genre. It’s a combination entirely unexpected from You Me At Six, especially at the bookend of the record, but it works surprisingly effectively in ending the album on an innovative, forward-thinking note.
It’s remarkable for a rock record to feel this energized and refreshed when coming from a band seven albums deep in their career, but SUCKAPUNCH sees You Me At Six return triumphantly to form. A fiery, inspired, and passionate record, it looks set to have both the band themselves and fans alike believing in You Me At Six again after their past few records fell victim to the predictable, monotonous formula of modern rock. Franceschi claimed that he went into the recording of this album expecting it to be the band’s last, but when the results are this electrifying, it can only be assumed that this may no longer be the case. “We need to show people why we’re still here,” he declared, and with SUCKAPUNCH his mission has certainly been accomplished.
Written by: Gemma Cockrell
Edited by: Olivia Stock