You Me At Six seem like nice lads. Having broken through in 2008 they’ve shifted away from their earlier Emo-laced sound into a sound that straddles rock, pop and pop punk. They interview well, have a loyal fan base and – with 2014’s Cavalier Youth, achieved a first number one album in the UK.
In a period when rock music in Britain has stagnated at the top – plenty of festivals that were previously rock’s purview have shifted towards dance and more credible pop acts, whilst nostalgic acts have often been preferred to up-and-coming acts – YMAS have successfully established themselves in the upper-middle tier of bands. Not quite main stage headliners, but top of the second stage or towards the end of the day on the main stage.
Night People feels like YMAS’s pitch for promotion. Recorded in Nashville, Tennessee with producer Jacquire King (Kings of Leon, James Bay, Of Monsters and Men) it has the whiff of a band trying to sound grown-up. The title track opens the album and has a blues-infused guitar riff; an intended statement of intent with a sexy and seductive undercurrent, it ends up plodding along to its conclusion.
The album has plenty of smart guitar licks and radio-friendly influences. Brand New is the apple that hasn’t strayed too far from the Kings of Leon tree; Take on the World almost strays into Coldplay territory – euphoric lift in the middle and all – and Heavy Soul is cast from the Fall Out Boy mould.
But the album feels hollow. Whilst it comes in at a pithy 35 minutes – to be applauded! – It’s 35 minutes of inauthenticity. You can hear the desperation to be liked, the need to stay relevant, and – most tellingly – the burning desire to finally make it to headliner status.
The biggest tells are the constant ‘woooaah’s’ littered throughout the album and the sing-a-long choruses that accompany the band, irrespective of the style that has preceded it. However much they start to swim in a new direction, the big catchy chorus is the sound of them wading back to the land of familiarity and comfort.
The disappointment is magnified by the glimpses of what might have been. Listen carefully and you can hear a band who sound like they want to make a more menacing and darker album; Can’t Hold Back [chorus aside] and Spell It Out both demonstrate signs of a band with interesting ideas – the latter is my favourite on the record – and it’d be great to hear them ditch the pop-friendliness for an album and fully commit to the dark side.
There are many reasons I wanted to like this album. I want more British rock bands to succeed; I want ‘new’ music to be centre-stage at festivals and – as mentioned they seem like good guys. But Night People isn’t so much a change in direction as a panic-attack at a crossroads.
These Night People sound less likely to prowl the streets or hit a rave at 3am than to go out for a nice Italian meal with a couple of glasses of wine before rushing home to catch Match of the Day.