On their new album Truth Decay, You Me at Six rediscovered their old-school pop-punk verve. However, their live show can’t match that energy and instead caves to arena rock cliché.
For almost every artist, writing and releasing an album is an enthralling period fertile with new opportunities. For You Me at Six, it’s been a shit-show at every turn. The one-time teen heartthrobs’ new disc, Truth Decay, was inspired by singer Josh Franceschi suffering a mental health crisis.
When the band debuted new song ‘God Bless the ’90s Kids’ live last week, its nonsensically nostalgic lyrics (“God bless the ‘90s kids / 21st-century misfits”) were so piss-poor that they got memed into oblivion. Then, to cap it all off, the record’s reception was as mixed as Marmite’s: for every reviewer hailing the band for re-embracing their pop-punk roots, another remained unmoved.
Despite Truth Decay dropping just the day before though, none of this matters to the 10,000 descending on Ally Pally. London’s got an itch for melodic rock throwbacks and You Me at Six, with albums like Sinners Never Sleep and collaborations with Oli Sykes on their CV, have the monopoly on backscratchers tonight. That hankering’s palpable before the set even starts, when Paramore’s ‘Misery Business’ blasts over the speakers and begets the loudest singalong of the entire concert.
Playing teenage favourites doesn’t flog the new album, however. ‘Deep Cuts’, the first track on Truth Decay, instead commences this evening, as the Surrey lads arrive illuminated by three diamond-shaped formations of spotlights from above.
More rows of lights are lined on top of one another along the stage and, if you’re craving more spectacle than that because you’re not a moth, tough luck. You Me at Six are here to give you the most average rock show you’ve seen in your life, devoid of pyro, a screen to fill the backdrop’s swathes of blackness and everything but a closing blast of confetti.
However, aesthetics are by no means a gig’s be-all and end-all, and, to their credit, You Me at Six have indeed returned to the emo-flecked rock that made them early 2010s sweethearts. In fact, ‘Deep Cuts’ flaunts a squealing guitar riff, channelling Franz Ferdinand and Kasabian so proudly and so early that it sounds like it’s begging to be let into your local indie club.
Tracks from Truth Decay proceed to dominate the evening (five in total), but they’re clearly not what everyone’s here for; ‘God Bless the ‘90s Kids’ demonstrates that the most strikingly, when Franceschi attempts to inspire Ally Pally into reciting that crap chorus, which falls flat on its arse. By contrast, ‘Bite My Tongue’ and ‘Beautiful Way’ light a fire under the capital – perhaps literally, considering the frenzy of jumping they both inspire.
Whether you love or loathe You Me at Six’s new pop-punk rejuvenation though, there’s undeniably a by-the-numbers way to how they present these tunes. If you’ve seen any of the arena shows hosted by this band’s rock music peers, from Bring Me the Horizon to Enter Shikari, you already know every trick this set is going to pull. Imploring you to pull your phone torch out for a song mid-set? Check. Getting a local frontman from a popular band to show up for a single song (in this instance, Rou Reynolds)? Yep. Doing an acoustic number two-thirds in so things don’t get monotonous? You know it.
They even wrap up by stealing Slipknot’s kneel-down-and-jump-the-fuck-
The old adage declares that familiarity breeds contempt and, if that’s true, You Me at Six are about to be murdered by 10,000 people. The showmanship adheres exclusively to “arena rock 101” and there are no surprises to carry things above and beyond. The bottom line is that, even if you’ve never caught this band before, you have already seen this show.