You and me at Six – SUCKAPUNCH: Album Review

You and Me at Six are an English rock band from Surrey, formed just a few years after the turn of the century.

They made immediate waves with their debut album Take Off Your Colours and gained a large following with their two subsequent releases, pushing them up to big band status as they played sold out nights at Wembley Arena and played high on festival bills such as Download and Reading + Leeds. Being six studio albums in as of 2020, the band have continued their consistent output and have gone from strength to strength from a song writing perspective. That leads us to 2021 and the first major release of the year (from what I could tell) their new album, SUCKAPUNCH. In all honesty, while I did like a couple of their songs, I was never the biggest fan back in the day. My friends were, but they came around at the time that I was almost exclusively into heavier music, my rebellious teenager faze. I haven’t even heard much about this band in a good five years. Therefore, as a result, I have no idea what to expect going into this, which actually has me kind of excited!

Nice to Me

This track opens the album in a great build-up, some simple yet awesome guitar notes and a calm, low vocal delivery by Josh Franceschi, amping up more and more throughout the first verse. The song then soon explodes into a huge, catchy chorus. Josh’s slightly harsher tones sound great and the rest of the band filling out the sound is awesome. My only complaint for it is that it doesn’t go on for nearly long enough, it’s pretty short for a chorus. The band drop it back down into a second verse and repeat the same great formula, building up into a huge chorus. We get a short bridge/guitar solo before it gets stripped back further than ever, ending up with just a low bassline. The band then yet again add layer upon layer on top of it, some basic drum rolls and guitar and more low vocals that repeat the chorus hook, building up more and more before yet again exploding into the final chorus and quieter outro. So far this was way better than I was expecting. It blended more indie stylings than I remember them using in the past yet combined it with a heavier side than usual, too. It also had a great hook to it, landing it a place on the brand new 2021 playlist for me!

 MAKEMEFEELALIVE

Next up is the lead single from the album. It opens on an AMAZING clean guitar riff, one that’s so simple yet so good, and is only added to and made even better when the grungy bass tone comes in underneath, giving it a real heavy layer to it. Y’all know how much I love a good bass tone, and the fact that the guitars drop out for the first half of the verse and leave just that and drums behind the vocals is really awesome. The sick riff kicks back in and a quick pre-chorus before we get another huge sounding, heavy chorus. Catchier than the first and filled with simple, easy to sing along to vocal melodies (coupled perfectly by the subtle lead guitar) it’s one that can easily go down very well live. It’s also a longer chorus, too, curing my gripe with the first song. And with the track only being at 2 minutes in length, like half the song is chorus. It just gets in and out, verse chorus verse chorus done, no messing around. It was awesome. Another playlisted song!

My only issue with the previous song is that it stops dead while being pretty heavy, only to immediately go into a slower, lighter, cleaner riff with the next song, another single, Beautiful Way. It’s a jarring contrast to go between two completely different styles and feelings simultaneously and did take me out of it for a second. However, that’s not to take away from the clean riff of the song, it’s definitely beautiful and good in its own right. As the verse kicks in it is a lot more like the YAMA6 of old, the version that I was expecting to hear more of already, more pop-punk leaning than that of a more modern day band like FEVER 333. The vocals in the verse are calmer and more stripped back and it sounds a lot more like it would appeal to a broader audience. And, while there are some slightly harsher vocals in the chorus, it is by far the catchiest so far, a ballad through and through. I’m digging it, though, again a lot more than I expected to. The bridge/guitar solo added a lot of depth to the song too, and the stripped back chorus towards the end sounded incredible. Damn, three for three so far with playlisted songs!

Unfortunately, the quality doesn’t last forever. The next couple of tracks, WYDRN and the title track, SUCKAPUNCH, aren’t nearly as good as the previous few in my eyes/ears. While both have catchy hooks to them during their choruses, both lean heavily into the more slower electronica side of modern music, especially modern pop music. When WYDRN started I had hopes that it would be more inspired by Linkin Park and bands like this, but honestly this felt more like an attempt to write a modern-day pop song akin to Billy Eilish. If people like these songs, awesome, but they are definitely not for me, I prefer the heavier or punkier direction they were taking. At least SUCKAPUNCH has a pretty decent riff in it around the middle!

The quality picks up a little (though admittedly not by a large amount) with the next two tracks, Kill the Mood and Glasgow. While both still incorporate a lot of pop elements to them, they are definitely more ballads than the previous two songs, and still lean more towards rock. Kill the Mood reminds me a lot of the last two Shinedown records, stripped back and simple with an enormously catchy hook for a chorus, another one that would go down a storm live. Glasgow, on the other hand, is a straight up slow, emotion filled epic ballad through and through. Even when the distorted guitar kicks in to add depth to the huge last chorus, it still feels like an acoustic ballad, and the lyrics reflect that perfectly. As I said, while these two aren’t up to par with the first three tracks, they are still good in their own way!

Unfortunately, for me at least, the album dips back down in quality again for its remaining four songs. Now, I’m not saying that any of them are inherently bad as such, but compared to my favourite tracks of this album they are nowhere near as good. My issue is a pretty simple one, too, they all sound like Imagine Dragons songs. I don’t hate on said band, anywhere near as much as some on the internet do, but if I wanted to hear Imagine Dragons, I’d listen to Imagine Dragons. I get the appeal of their sound (they are arguably the biggest pop rock band around right now) but too many good rock bands are altering their sound in order to capitalize on this other band’s success. The first three tracks on this album were SO GOOD because, while they sure sounded like they drew a lot of influence from other bands, they still sounded unique and heavy enough to stand out. Not with these, though. Heck, the most recent single, Adrenaline, sounds like it would fit right in with the likes of Monster and Warrior. They’re all catchy and at a base level good, enjoyable songs, but I’m so burnt out by this style nowadays that I simply don’t care.

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Conclusion:

This was a real mixed bag of an album. For one that started out feeling fresh and something that could be a very early contender for album of the year, it soon took a bit of a nosedive into generic pop rock, something that was quite frankly the last direction I expected the band to go in. The first three songs will make it onto my playlist and are worth checking out, but outside of that unless you’re not into heavy music or ballads, take it or leave it.

Overall: 5.5/10.

The review by musician, blogger & author – Joe Griffiths

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