English rockers You Me At Six wanted to travel to uncharted musical territory on their seventh studio album, Suckapunch, so they did just that by.going to a place they’d never been. The band went to Thailand to record and the exotic setting allowed the members a new level of creative freedom to write as they pleased. The resulting album is an eclectic, raucous romp through alt-rock past and present.
Suckapunch covers an expansive musical plane, from alt-rock to pop and hardcore. It’s even further than You Me At Six reached on their previous album, VI. Some tracks maintain the band’s classic sound, while others travel to new places entirely—likely making a fitting juxtaposition of fresh and familiar. Opener “Nice To Me” swells quickly from the plucky repeated guitar lick to an all-out lo-fi dance rock stomper. On the bridge vocalist John Franceschi repeats, “Only if you’re nice/ If you’re nice to me,” as the energy builds around him before the final chorus takes the song home.
Firecracker tune “MAKEMEFEEALIVE” makes a quick but memorable entrance and exit. An old-school punk-rock production with modern energy, the song rolls along until it screeches to a halt like a needle abruptly being pulled off. “Beautiful Way” fits in closer with the sound fans might typically associate with You Me At Six, mixing an infectious pop melody on the verses, building to an aggressive chorus. The record takes a sharper turn toward pop on “WYDRN”—an abbreviation for “what ya doin’ right now”—a dark and effective track that has Franceschi delivering in an almost-rapped cadence on the second verse.
One of the album’s high spots arrives in the form of the title track. Starting with a pulsing looped beat, “Suckapunch” has an immediate energy and keeps on building on the synth-laden fist-pumper of a chorus. “I rise from the wreckage that you left behind,” Fraceschi repeats as the track rises and falls from verse to chorus.
You Me At Six takes a 180-degree turn for bluesy power ballad “Kill the Mood,” a down and dirty rocker with some added acoustic flourish. The mid-tempo ballad clocks in at nearly six minutes, beginning with a smooth, atmospheric grove. First impressions can be deceiving, however, as it grows into a dramatic scream-sung final chorus that takes it to an entirely different place from where it started.
“Adrenaline” then brings another surprise with bluesy rock swagger that fuses in some pop. From a melody standpoint, it’s one of the more memorable moments on the record and one surely to be stuck in your head from the first listen.
“Voicenotes” is another pleasant surprise. Part ballad and part rocker, the song jumps back and forth between slick and ferocious before exploding into a Tom-Morello-inspired final chorus riff. “I’m slipping through your fingers like a bad decision,” Franceschi sings with urgency. Suckapunch doesn’t lose any steam in its closing moments. “Finish Where I Started” and “What It’s Like” both bring a pounding, rousing energy. “Love don’t live here any more/ It’s nothing personal/ But it’s not reversible,” Franceschi sings in the album’s final moments.
While You Me At Six may at one time have been lumped in with pop-punk acts, the band has clearly grown and evolved. At one point, Suckapunch was rumored to be Franceschi’s final work with the band. Now that seems to be in the past, and the band is riding a creative high that fans can only hope will bring new creative expression and adventure.
Follow writer Mike DeWald at Twitter.com/mike_dewald.