Young Guns

Ones And Zeros

Written by: TL on 12/06/2015 10:36:57

When they appeared out of nowhere with their debut album "All Our Kings Are Dead" in 2010, London group Young Guns were an exciting new band - A scrappy young quartet that had made a record that sounded much bigger than anything they had any business playing. Acting the part soon earned them the part however, and by the time 2012's sophomore "Bones" came out, the band had played big shows with Lostprophets, earned slots at England's premiere music festivals, and started turning their eyes on the US as well. The new album "Ones And Zeros" is the next attempt of another step up in the world then, with the band opting to fly to LA and record with Dan The Automator instead of SikTh's Dan Weller, who was behind the knobs on both previous albums.

Now, there apparently comes a point in the life of every rock band with big ambitions, where they make the mistake of forgetting what their strengths are as a rock act, and sadly, this is that point for Young Guns. You can hear the shift even in the attitude of singer Gustav Wood's vocal performance: He used to sound like an underdog - a man that had seen things others had missed and sang them with sort of a manic desire to convince us. Now he and the band sound like they believe their own hype, writing songs with a tone that sounds like they'll be shocked if audiences don't grin mindlessly while bouncing up and down relentlessly.

An exception is the song "Daylight", which cleverly balances its tone between darkness and growing light, establishing an air of enchantment around the catchy chorus. The bridge positively screams for a Slash-style neo-classical solo built around the song's signature melody, but sadly the band half-asses it here, or perhaps errs on the side of caution, fearing for the precious attention spans of radio audiences. But at least you hear a tiny hint of rock edge. On the flipside, another single like "Speaking In Tongues" is stupidly infectious even while being obviously poppy, and the album opener "Rising Up" also has a good sense of oomph to the echoing riffs and heavy beat.

If you listen to the album as a whole though, it's booooringly formulaic. The problem isn't that the band has gone for a hypermodern, high-tech sound. That can obviously work as heard on the songs I just mentioned. The problem is that every song just strolls along at medium tempo while giving off the impression that verses and bridges are trifles that are really just in the way of very simple and obvious choruses. Bands like 30 Seconds To Mars and The Killers have clearly been inspirations during the production process, but where those have occasionally shown that they can tell stories or inspire emotion while capitalising on their huge soundscapes, Young Guns just seem trapped in a land of pointless "whoa-ohs", where there's no room for actual energy or musical ingenuity.

At best, the songs surrounding the ones mentioned previously stroll by forgettably like throwaway The 1975 b-sides, or at worst, sound like "Lullaby", where the normally well-singing Woods delivers some painfully grating high pitched vocalising that does not suit his otherwise uniquely textured voice one bit. It is like the band wanted a "Forever Young"-kinda song and it just went bad in the way where you leave something on the record because you've been working on it too long to realise that it just sounds off. It is the most glaring mistake on an album that often feels like it was written with stadium lights in its eyes. The production is occasionally impressive, and there are a few songs you would not mind hearing in between older highlights in a Young Guns concert, but overall the promising band has trimmed its creativity too much in the pursuit of the wider audiences here. You have to hope they rediscover that while choruses are important, they do not make songs on their own, otherwise the career ahead of them finally looks as corny as their name - Something that had otherwise been a satisfying falsehood until now.


Download: Daylight, Speaking In Tongues, Rising Up
For The Fans Of: 30 Seconds To Mars, The Killers, Lower Than Atlantis, Mallory Knox

Release date 08.06.2015
Virgin EMI / Wind-Up

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