You Me At Six

Cavalier Youth

Written by: TL on 22/01/2014 00:15:24

Having watched You Me At Six fast track it double time to the big leagues since the band's emergence in 2006 has been a lot like watching somebody learn tight rope walking live and without a safety net. You've sort of waited for them to mess up eventually and yet been sort of amazed each time they didn't, yet thus far, each YMAS album has felt wholesome and purposeful, advancing them steadily to their recent headlining show at Wembley Arena - The place where British bands mostly go to peak in all but the rarest cases (see: Muse treading Queen's footsteps by headlining the next door stadium).

Honestly though, if I wasn't looking at the calendar, I somehow wouldn't be expecting a new album from the Surrey quintet, for while it has actually been a good three years since the release of "Sinners Never Sleep", the band's success has seemingly solidified in rather undramatic fashion, while they themselves have spent much of the time on spreading their name in America. The band is coming back in five days time with their fourth album "Cavalier Youth" however, and if there is one thing it seems urgent to do, it's invirogating a band that isn't even my age, which would be a bit strange, but pushing 28 I guess I sort of also know what it's like to be "Too Young To Feel This Old". As the ringing stadium riff of the thusly named opening track reveals immediately though, "Cavalier Youth" is an album that doesn't need reading into.

More so than even the previous YMAS records, this is a record that's all about the big singles that you can appreciate at face value, and with "Too Young To Feel This Old" and "Lived A Lie" the album is also front-loaded in traditional fashion with a double-shot of straight up catchyness. Both songs follow the now predictable YMAS formula of a relatively simple chorus that's brought home by a solid middle-eight - showing that the band knows what's the wishbone in poppy songwriting - and both of them are the kind of obvious melodies that you'll be skeptical about at first, yet likely quickly get won over by. Nothing is new in this department, and in terms of production, "Cavalier Youth" also moves in a predictable direction with a positively pristine mix, casting Josh Francheschi's recognisable mutter/croon dynamics up front, letting the guitar signatures slice through when they need to and tying a nice bow on the whole thing by allowing the rhythm section enough rumble to afford the album a decent volume in the low end.

What is new is that the tone of both the sounds and the lyrics feels like the album is less in the midst of Francheschi's personal drama, more like it's consolidated towards leaving all that stuff in the past and moving forward. There's a hint of the past's danger in "Fresh Start Fever", "Forgive And Forget" and "Win Some, Lose Some", but you still get the feeling like the band is in a state of acceptance, where they'd rather spread their arms and feel triumphant than use their songs to alleviate any particularly frustrations.

As a person I admire this attitude, but as a music fan, I wonder if it's at the heart of the feeling that the songs have gotten a bit too constructed this time around. Both "Forgive And Forget" and "Room To Breathe" sound like songs the band has written before, only these are bigger yet somehow less convincing. "Win Some, Lose Some" makes an attempt to spice things up with a delicious squealing noise responding to the chunky bass notes in the verse, and "Hope For The Best" has a wonderful guitar part under its chorus, but both suffer from the same faith as the following "Love Me Like You Used To": Their lyrical hooks are just too flatly happy-go-lucky and more importantly, they sound too much like something that mimics a young teenager's diary scriblings. "Be Who You Are"? "Wild Ones"? For the love of God, a song built around the line "Carpe Diem to the bitter end"? Ronan Keating-loving, eighth grade TL would've been enchanted, but "coming up on thirty" TL feels like the band has gotten perhaps a tad too aware of the realities of pop-rock's largest demographic here.

The question only is if the youngsters will take the bait. Considering that "Cavalier Youth" is such a well-produced, tightly written effort, and considering that the casual listener might not really notice the slight difference between it and previous YMAS records, there's perhaps little reason to fear that they won't. To a long time fan of the band however, I feel like this will be the least favoured album, because the drop-off from the strong opening singles has gotten steeper. YMAS seem to have misplaced their more dynamic turns of phrase and have gone from a first album that got stronger as it moved on, across two that delivered up front yet still kept you interested, to a fourth that now get's more hit-and-miss across the middle. And thus - while he isn't falling yet - for the first time my metaphorical tight rope walker flashes a concerning wobble.


Download: Too Young To Feel This Old; Lived A Lie; Hope For The Best; Win Some, Lose Some
For The Fans Of: Blitz Kids, Kids In Glass Houses, Deaf Havana, Mallory Knox

Release Date 27.01.2014
Virgin Records

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