Review Summary: English pop-punk… The way American teenagers like it.
Considering the universal popularity of pop-punk, it continues to amaze just how limited its production is confined to North America. In a genre that has arguably become a little stale, one would think that a fresher perspective would not only be a strength, but one which fans would welcome. The most likely band to take advantage of such an opportunity appeared to be English quintet You Me At Six, whose 2008 debut LP ‘Take Off Your Colours’ displayed maturity and potential beyond their teenage years, and had many looking forward with hopeful expectations to the group’s follow-up.
Unfortunately, it cannot be said that You Me At Six have fully capitalized on the opportunity presented to them on ‘Hold Me Down’, as the diversity and ambitious song structure evident on the second half of their debut is rarely seen here. Instead of concentrating on the songs themselves, it appears that they have looked to beef up their sound. Josh Franceschi’s vocals have clearly improved from the occasionally whiney attributes of his past, while the music on show has a much fuller sound. Unfortunately, all these improvements result in is a more generic Americanized feel that even verges on mainstream rock at times.
‘Hold Me Down’ is far from a total write-off however, since it actually begins and ends well. ‘The Consequence’ is an energetic rapid-fire opener complete with a gang vocal outro that is assisted by The Blackout’s Sean Smith. Lead single ‘Underdog’, ‘Playing the Blame Game’, ‘Contagious Chemistry’, ‘There’s No Such Thing as Accidental Infidelity’ and ‘Trophy Eyes’ are all catchy, carefree pop-punk cuts that overcome some dodgy lyrics, while ‘Fireworks’ presents an above-average soaring ballad to close the album well. The problem lies in the mid-section of ‘Hold Me Down’, which is littered with unmemorable (if competent) tracks that do not significantly distinguish themselves from any number of other bands in the genre. Why the band used stand-alone singles ‘Finders Keepers’ and ‘Kiss and Tell’ on the deluxe edition of their debut (released in mid-2009) instead of holding them back for this album boggles the mind.
While it is a touch unfair to expect a great deal from a band barely out of their teens, ‘Hold Me Down’ is a disappointing, if occasionally enjoyable, release. You Me At Six have clearly attempted to evolve and grow here, but the direction they have taken and the depth of song quality are both questionable. It all seems aimed at younger listeners and with the objective of gaining a larger fanbase, which ultimately places the band amongst the hundreds of other pop-punkers plying their trade across the Atlantic. Thankfully, the better songs still have a multitude of hooks to keep you singing along and there is nothing downright awful included. It is just hoped that next time around, these strengths can be coupled with greater imagination and ambition.
Recommended Tracks: The Consequence, There’s No Such Thing as Accidental Infidelity & Playing the Blame Game.
Roscoe, I'm actually pretty good with maths & statistics, but that thing just did my head in.
Thanks Ali... & can understand your opinion here.
Thanks Mike. With regards to those 2 stand-alone singles, I was actually going to dub it 'The Oasis Effect' since they also used so many great tracks as B-Sides & the like.
Fair question Lisbon... I mean Libson. I'd say both albums have an intangible factor of sorts when it comes to the reviewer. With this, I just enjoy listening to it & no individual song is bad. With OK Go, I really admired the risks & ambition they showed to change their sound dramatically.