ALBUM REVIEW: You Me At Six – SUCKAPUNCH
Photo Credit: Daniel Harris
Seven albums in and seventeen years together as a band, alt-rock five piece You Me At Six have seen it all. From dropping their debut record Take Off Your Colours in 2008, to bagging a headliner slot at Gunnersville 2019, that saw them chronologically speed their way through their entire single back catalogue – all achieved over a decade as one of the most renowned rock bands to burst out of the British music scene. With a discography of chart topping studio albums, from Take Off Your Colours to sixth record VI, it seems on their seventh effort the Surrey-based band are setting out down their own path. The explosive SUCKAPUNCH sees them deliver a renewed sound, travelling far and wide into uncharted dance, hip-hop and R&B territory, all whilst retaining their synonymous melodic pop, indie and rock identity.
Opener Nice To Me kicks off proceedings with almighty power. A rampaging guitar comes in with colossal style, before being joined by an almost dance type beat in the background. The track builds up to Josh Franceschi‘s raged-filled vocals, not too dissimilar to that on latter track MAKEMEFEELALIVE, which both feature some of his most pressing and powerful vocal performances on the album. However, it’s not until Nice To Me reaches its bridge where the suspense factor hits, as groovy bass lines, glitchy drums and rock heavy riffs explode into a dance rock dominated song, one that ultimately gets SUCKAPUNCH off to a strong start.
Singles MAKEMEFEELALIVE and Beautiful Way are up next. MAKEMEFEELALIVE is a hard hitting rock belter, bursting with gritty guitars and quickfire drums that pounce in immediately upon pressing play. You Me At Six briefly vacated to Thailand towards the tail end of last year to record the album, as seen in their mini-documentary The Making Of SUCKAPUNCH, escaping the world’s societal issues to fully commit to making the record. That’s not to say that MAKEMEFEELALIVE doesn’t scream furiously at the disdain for what’s going on back down in reality; from climate change to racial injustice, Franceschi’s frustrated vocal delivery captures these cries out for change loud and clear.
Beautiful Way follows, with its hypnotic switches between soft verses and loud choruses. The track is, by large, the most instantly recognisable You Me At Six song on SUCKAPUNCH, dipping in energy for some calm melodic pop verses, before surging once more into loud obnoxious rock choruses. Lyrically, the single shares similarities with MAKEMEFEELALIVE – the two tracks maturely tackle the power individuals and humanity as a species has to take back and rightfully reclaim what is ours. Beautiful Way centres its songwriting around self acceptance, whereas MAKEMEFEELALIVE nods to the notion of needing to see clearly in order to understand your past, present and future. Beautiful Way is an addictive tune that takes the subject of self love and portrays it without any of the sadness, soppiness and over sentimental value often associated with a typical love song. Instead it turns on its head, ramping up the tempo to peak in a frantic rush of fast-paced instrumentals and festival ready singalongs.
WYDRN is SUCKAPUNCH’s biggest curveball, and is far from what you might expect from classic You Me At Six. Having spoken openly about the band’s desire to be bolder and more experimental with their music, without the stress of being considered so called ‘sell outs’, Franceschi recalls: “We were wary of being called culture vultures, but in fact, that fusion is exactly us now. I haven’t listened to much guitar music for years, Dan is obsessed with dance, some of us love R&B. We’re still a rock band at heart, but somehow, we manage to make all of those influences slot together. It’s not forced, it’s just us.” With its newfound woozy R&B style vocals, fused with dynamic electro production and intense rock instrumentation, WYDRN is a natural grower that portrays a true reflection of the individual members’ developing music tastes, without it ever being created in a way that sounds contrived.
Title-track SUCKAPUNCH takes the top spot as one of, if not the standout track, both lyrically and sonically. The song is about overcoming a path of destruction that others have inflicted upon you, with the notion that you will come back stronger than ever from such setbacks – as the chorus repeatedly states, “I rise from the wreckage you left behind”. Musically it blends elements of dance, house and techno in big club and rave style. Starting off with an ascending palpitating beat, by the time the chorus and post-chorus come around the instrumental energy explodes into a wave of heavy instrumentation, from distorted guitars to synth loaded drums.
Kill The Mood and Glasgow make up tracks six and seven of SUCKAPUNCH. Slowing the record down for a moment, Kill The Mood is a laid back rock ballad. At first it’s a slow burner with a mid-tempo beat and suave acoustics running throughout, before the noise picks up its pace towards the latter half of the track. The second ballad, Glasgow, is the most sombre and sincere of the two, where soul baring lyrics “Hate to see your heartbreak/That’s what all my friends would say/I’ve got nothing left to lose/Cause I already lost you” come at you like a ton of bricks, singing about fresh heartbreak and love loss, a central theme to this track and the overriding subject matters that make up SUCKAPUNCH.
Another single comes in the form of gritty melodic rock tune Adrenaline, which abides by the dictionary definition of the track’s title. However, it’s not until the chorus that your heart starts to beat faster and the blood pumps more vigorously through your veins, following the song’s initial slow start. Nevertheless, the high octane energy is released in the form of bold basslines and hook worthy choruses that finally come into power.
Voicenotes and Finish What I Started signal the near end of You Me At Six’s seventh effort. Voicenotes is another rock ballad which follows in the all too familiar formula of verse to chorus tempo changes, something a substantial amount of songs on SUCKAPUNCH have included. Finish What I Started follows and is a lyrical masterpiece, which tells us to finish what we started in life even if it’s been interrupted by the battles we have with ourselves. “Now I know I’m not the only one/Who feels that the time has come/When you feel the race is won/It’s time to pick yourself back up,” sings Franceschi on the track’s call to arms chorus, that ultimately motivates us to stand tall over the troubles life can throw our way all too often.
Last up is the band’s searing 2019 single What’s It Like. Having produced the majority of SUCKAPUNCH themselves alongside close collaborator Dan Austin, the intention for the album was to take the memorable, pop-rock leaning You Me At Six sound and inject it with the band’s influences that lie in dance, hip-hop and R&B, without the record sounding like a complete cop out. What’s It Like truly embodies this experimentation, especially where the production is concerned. The verses build with breathy vocals, climaxing into a chorus that drops scorching guitar riffs and snake charmer synths in dramatic style. What’s It Like is a fresh and modern mash up of rampaging rock, hip-hop and tension-filled trance, one that sees SUCKAPUNCH out with some serious innovation.
As their seventh studio album, SUCKAPUNCH is a natural sonic evolution for You Me At Six which is packed full of lyrical honesty; from the soul bearing songwriting on Glasgow and Finish What I Started, to the fearless genre-fusing WYDRN and What’s It Like. Whilst some songs fall short on attention grabbing factor, overall it seems these Surrey rockers are back feeling refreshed, revitalised and ready to spring some surprises with their new effort.
Standout Tracks: Nice To Me, MAKEMEFEELALIVE, WYDRN, SUCKAPUNCH, What’s It Like
For Fans Of: All Time Low, Busted, Deaf Havana
Written by: Katie Conway-Flood