There’s a video circulating the Twittersphere that perhaps didn’t get quite the reaction You Me At Six were hoping for. At the risk of being swayed by whatever footage gets pumped into my algorithm, it’s not hard to see why it’s mainly been criticised.
It shows the band’s frontman Josh Franceschi strutting around the stage at The Depo in Plymouth – on the first night of the band’s Truth Decay tour – wailing the lyrics to their latest release, ‘God Bless The 90s Kids’.
“God bless the 90s kids / 21st century misfits,” he unironically yells, “They never know when to quit / They write their own scripts.”
— You Me At Six (@youmeatsix) February 2, 2023
Perhaps in the age of quickfire, TikTok-ified consumption, where artists, bands and labels alike strive for relatable, shareable lyrics, You Me At Six thought they were onto something. Unfortunately, it did get shared, only for the wrong reasons, with a tune that tries to emote out of precisely nothing (being born in a particular era).
To say the rest of the album follows suit would be harsh and simplistic. But it’s almost true. The band emphasised their past in the record’s promo, with Franceschi explaining how they “began to look back on all the things that made us want to be in a band”. How they “wanted to make an album that came slightly easier to us”. That easier way of doing things has come with a cost, with a noticeable inability to innovate with every self-indulgent vocal strain.
Along with the aforementioned tribute to Gen Z, tracks ‘After Love In The After Hours’ and ‘Heartless’ are punk-rock tunes drowned by their lack of originality. You can imagine a band playing them at a school rock concert in the final scene of a Disney teen flick, with lyrics mainly written by committee. “I trusted you like a newborn / Deception was your ar-artform” – yeah, that rhymes. “You tell me I’m not the one / No sign of moving on / Yeah, I know you’re not heartless / Your heart was just a mess” – sure, that’ll do.
The attempts to switch things up that are present ultimately fall short. ‘Who Needs Revenge When We’ve Got Ellen Rae’, midway through the album, begins with something potentially compelling, with its murky, grunge-inspired guitar strumming, before descending into yet another simple yelling match.
The subsequent track, ‘Breakdown’, offers another two-steps-forwards-one-steps-back approach toward originality. The evident smirk and “Ha!” that accompanies the end of the line “24/7 wearing this crown / And everyone’s invited bring your friends round” is another of the more cringeworthy moments on the album. The track seems to make a spectacle of mental deterioration, inviting people over to watch “a f***ing breakdown”. And amid the radio frequency vocal distortion, is Franceschi trying to… rap?
When You Me At Six’s debut, Take Off Your Colours, came in 2009, you could see clearly what they were about. Whilst it dragged a little through its one-hour, nine-minute runtime, excess on that record was serving its purpose; this was a Weybridge outfit getting things off their chest, wallowing with a respectable kind of necessity. And there was little doubt about their emo audience.
Excess on Truth Decay, though, borders on petulance. ‘Mixed Emotions (I Didn’t Know How To Tell You What I Was Going Through’), for instance – as an example of excess, look no further than such a title – again revels in a certain amount of drama, this time a toxic relationship. It’s precisely the kind of emo-fuelled angst that internet meme Woo Wop appears a caricature of.
The album’s best work is arguably its first and final tracks: ‘Deep Cuts’, with its whirring, didgeridoo-sounding start, and ‘A Love Letter To Those Who Feel Lost’, featuring Burnley punk-rocker Cody Frost. In different ways, both sound like the most heartfelt periods on the record – just. Unfortunately, they’re the bread sandwiching more anodyne fillings.
Here’s the kicker. I don’t doubt the album will do well and may well even bag the band another number one – the same feat they achieved with 2021’s Suckapunch. The fans they’ve accumulated over the years are certainly loyal. Only, at some point, they’ll have to hear that their favourite band may not be hitting the mark of years gone by.
Sometimes, the truth hurts. Sometimes, things decay.