Judging by its name—Night People—you might assume that the new record by British rockers You Me at Six is a fast-paced tribute to revelry and mischief. However, this is not so. Many of its songs have far less to do with nightlife than they do with the darker aspects of human existence—self-doubt, relationship problems, and the other shadows that dance around people’s minds when the sun goes down. Make no mistake, though: while this album deals with some heavy themes, it is not devoid of fun. With moments for nights out as well as nights in, Night People provides both entertainment and introspection.
The album begins with the title track, a roaring single that seems like it was meant to close shows in stadiums full of cheering fans. Although the song certainly sounds celebratory, considering its bold, bluesy riff, pounding percussion, and crowd-pleasing “whoa”s, its lyrics suggest that there are two sides to the story. Lines like “Raise a glass to tomorrow’s blues” add a pleasant touch of realism to the track’s upbeat feel, making it a good pick no matter what mood the listener is in.
Next up is “Plus One,” which boasts a similar vibe. In the vein of the All-American Rejects’ “Night Drive,” it combines powerful guitars and confident vocals, creating an environment of urgency. During the verses, a bass line adds to the intensity of Josh Franceschi’s voice, which radiates all the assertiveness and frustration that you would expect of a song with lyrics like “That look in your eyes says you’re mine on this day/The wrong time, the wrong place.” Franceschi’s adeptness at dynamic changes also contributes to the song’s impact. An especially soft voice could make lines like “I don’t say much with poise or grace” sound weak, just as an especially loud voice could make lines like “Come here” sound aggressive. Thankfully, Franceschi’s delivery is spot-on.
The next few songs are decidedly more pop-influenced and less exciting. “Heavy Soul” sounds like a less sunny version of a Rooney song. The lyrics are dark, but not dark enough to seem ironic when compared to the instrumentation; hence, they come across as a bit incongruous. “Take on the World” and “Brand New” belong to a different category of songs—ballads. While they demonstrate the band’s ability to dial back the noise and craft tunes that could easily be heard on the Billboard Hot 100, their predictable structures get somewhat bland after a few listens. (The lyric “If your past calls, don’t you pick it up/It’s got nothing new to say” from “Brand New” does linger in your mind, though.)
The latter half of the record is stronger than the former. One of its highlights is “Swear,” a welcome return to the rock-and-roll energy of the first two tracks. Due to its electronic flourishes and a steady, driving beat, there’s no way it could get confused with any other track on the album. “Spell It Out,” another standout, is even better. It’s clearly the most enthralling moment of Night People—the kind of haunting song that deserves to be played during the “dark night of the soul” scene of a quality film. Its magic lies in the fact that it’s essentially an extended crescendo. At first, Franceschi sings delicately over sparse, somber instrumentation, evoking the minor-key ballads of bands like The Neighbourhood. By the end of the track, however, he’s crying out the chorus—”Should I spell it out for you?/No one here is bulletproof”—with the force of a million gunshots, backed by equally emotive guitars and percussion. Now this is the kind of song that would sound amazing live.
Night People is the beginning of a good year for You Me at Six. Give it a listen—surely, some of its tracks will seize your attention.