Review Summary: Neither cavalier, nor youthful enough to take YM@6 to the next level.
Whatever your thoughts may be concerning English rockers You Me At Six, each of their previous full-length releases came with a purpose that was ultimately realized. 2008 debut 'Take Off Your Colours' placed the band on the map, being both fun and catchy, but also showing maturity and a knack for ambitious song structure. While generic and overly Americanized, follow-up 'Hold Me Down' beefed up their sound and gained the quintet a larger fanbase. Finally, headlined by the fantastic Oli Sykes collaboration 'Bite My Tongue', 2011's 'Sinners Never Sleep' felt heavier, with more of an alt-rock style that focused on strong musicianship and expanding the range of lead vocalist Josh Franceschi. Sadly, You Me At Six have seemingly come into fourth LP 'Cavalier Youth' without a purpose, happy to get by performing good - but predictable and formulaic - tunes.
It all begins well enough, with muscular opener 'Too Young to Feel This Old' highlighting the slick production of Neal Avron (Yellowcard, New Found Glory). Guitars soar and drums pound, while Franceschi’s rock-solid vocals deliver uplifting and relatable lyrics revolving around the theme of moving on from life’s trials and tribulations. Lead single 'Lived a Lie' then adds a gang chant to the mix, while the following 'Fresh Start Fever' comes straight out of the Fall Out Boy playbook to add something just a little quirky. From there, however, 'Cavalier Youth' is very much a mixed bag, failing to hit the target more often than it succeeds. Lazy repetitive refrains and "woh woh's": See half the tunes here. Attempts to add edge that fall flat: See 'Win Some, Lose Some'. Pedestrian love songs: see 'Wild Ones' & 'Forgive and Forget'. Value-adding guest vocals: Nope, since this is the band’s first release without any. There's even an interesting little ditty that frustratingly goes unrealized due to it being cut short in 'Be Who You Are'.
In truth, ‘Cavalier Youth’ is not a bad album, since there is nothing downright awful and its handful of highlights are enjoyable enough. But, to be blunt, most things about the album feel by-the-numbers, with the Englishmen happy to play it safe for the most part. Franceschi, for instance, is a talented vocalist who has a strong voice, but does not push his range often enough here, with only 'Room to Breathe' a showcase for his skills. Rollicking latter half duo 'Hope For the Best' and 'Love Me Like You Used To' are solid and gratifying in the moment, but both are well within the band's comfort zone and are simply not memorable enough to differentiate the quintet. In fact, it is only Avron's aforementioned huge-sounding production which separates You Me At Six from hundreds of similar bands, meaning that 'Cavalier Youth' is neither cavalier, nor youthful enough to take them to the next level. "We're not young anymore" sings Franceschi to open the album. Josh, you're only 23 for fuck sake... There's plenty of time for you to get old and complacent later!
Recommended Tracks: Room to Breathe, Too Young to Feel This Old & Fresh Start Fever.