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Young Guns are a home grown talent from High Wycombe who have been active since 2003, and started releasing studio albums beginning in 2010 with "All Our Kings Are Dead" which did okay peaking at #43 in the main UK album charts and #3 in the UK Independent Album Charts but I personally rated it very highly. Next up is "Bones", the album I will be reviewing, released in February 2012 which performed better on the UK albums peaking at #19 on the main chart and #2 on the rock chart but then went and did an amazing thing with their single "Bones" reaching #1...yes you read me right...#1 in the US on their main chart. In the UK? It managed a pitiful #130. How queer (although it could have something to do with the single being used as theme music for WrestleMania XXIX). So, the best way to describe Young Gun's music is melodic alternative rock and the band consists of Gustav Wood (lead vocals), Fraser Taylor (lead guitar, rhythm guitar), John Taylor (rhythm guitar, lead guitar), Simon Mitchell (bass guitar) and Ben Jolliffe (drums, percussion, backing vocals).
So, is "Bones" an improvement on their debut album? Well, in some ways yes, and in others no. Allow me to elaborate - for me there are three absolutely stunning songs on this album which show great strides in their music progressing rapidly from their first very decent studio album, but as a result the rest of the tracks, which would have been good in their own right, now pale in comparison and feel a little safe in contrast. So I would say that while "Bones" has the best tracks Young Guns have composed to date "All Our Kings Are Dead" is a better all-round album. I may be unfairly setting my expectations too high but I find myself forgetting the other tracks in favour of the standout ones. The album kicks off with "I Was Born, I Have Lived, I Will Surely Die" which is a fairly fast paced, catchy tune with good sing-along properties about it. The guitars are a bit messy and chaotic but there are very melodic passages that allow for intriguing changes in the tempo. Wood puts in a good performance with pretty aggressive vocals mixed in with a few moments of vulnerability making for an interesting contrast. Lyrically it is almost a tale of never giving up which is almost at odds with the mood of the song - "Every day is a chance to change the story. Don't run away, take a shot, give it everything you've got. Without pain, tell me what's the point in glory?". A good opening, but not the most memorable of songs.
"Learn My Lesson" was the first single released and is very similar to the opening track with chaotic guitars interspersed with some fine standalone riffs, whilst still maintaining a melodious, catchy chorus. Again it will probably get you singing along without being all that memorable. Wood once again shows his smooth rock voice off in style, but the range is mostly on the angry side so there's not much variation. The lyrics are dark in places though which does make you stop and think - "Boarded up all the doors and I swallowed all the keys. I'm still haunted by all the things I'll never be". Their third single "Dearly Departed" suffers a similar fate. It is another up-tempo song with a pretty catchy chorus and slightly crisper guitars than the aforementioned songs but again is in a very similar style. To be fair the melody of the guitars is stronger and there is a bigger breadth of emotions that allows Wood to show off his range marginally better but I feel like this song is still just a bit restrained and I feel a darker melody would have suited the lyrics better - "I'm bruised but I'm not broken and I know at least I know where I am on my own. I wanna be the last thing that you see, be my dearly departed".
"Towers (On My Way)" was the fourth single released and I have to say it still in the same tempo as all the previously mentioned songs. Again it is a pretty aggressive song, with not much emotional range beyond anger which does however allow for a very passionate performance by Wood who does have an excellent rock voice. It is once again catchy with some striking guitars but again just doesn't push the boundaries and so isn't one to stick in the memory and again I feel the intriguing cryptic darkness of the lyrics just gets swallowed up in the music - "I walk then I crawl, I'm thankful to be moving at all. Considering all the places I've been on the way, some people build towers, I just dig holes". I'd like to say something new, but with "Brother in Arms" I simply can't. It's catchy, it has good guitar melodies...it's safe. I'm not saying it's bad at all as it is a nice song to listen to, it just sounds suspiciously like songs gone before. Wood still puts in a great performance and there is perhaps less anger replaced with more passion in this one, but it still just blends in and again I feel a profounder meaning in the lyrics is once again a touch lost - "Brother in arms, together we, spill our blood, on foreign streets. Worlds apart, and in too deep, my brother in arms".
On to "Headlights" next...and alas, poor Yorick, it's much of a muchness with this one. There is definitely a slightly more emotional edge to this one, and the tempo is a tad slower plateauing at the end but the final result is the same with a nice, catchy song to listen to but becoming forgettable as soon as it ends - "Through my fingers everything was monotone and weak. Now all the colours bring me to my knees. I was so afraid of repeating myself that I never said anything at all". I'll let those lyrics do the talking for me. Thankfully the band do show off their softer side on this album to finally bring about some genuine variation and it firstly comes in the form of "A Hymn for All I've Lost" which is a beautiful piece stripped back to subtle and haunting guitars with a very affecting vocal performance by Wood...but it's only 1 minute and 6 seconds long. Argh! I guess it was supposed to represent a hymnal effusion but I would have loved a full length song so it was a bit disappointing when it ended so abruptly - "Where do I fit in when no matter where I stand I still fall? I'm on the outside looking in".
"You Are Not" was the fifth single released, and this carried on from the good work of "A Hymn for All I've Lost" as a beautiful and emotional slower tempo song. Wood showcases just how much of an emotional range he actually possesses with a powerful performance here to really bring the sad lyrics to life - "Lonely, lonely hard to shine. When they don't notice you at all, sink further every day". This one is finally a more memorable track as it breaks the chains the band somewhat tied themselves down with. There's no denying when they set their minds to it, musically Young Guns have a lot of talent as they illustrate with a random instrumental interlude cleverly named "Interlude" which is a lovely, atmospheric piece that build on delicate strings to an outstandingly melodic guitar solo. Now before I put you off completely by making out this album is too samey, I've left the best until last and here are the three amazing songs on the album which I think pulls it out of the fire and transforms it into a great album.
First up is their mega hit in America - "Bones", their second single released. This is everything you want from a rock song - an incredibly strong, smooth and catchy guitar melody with plenty of aggression and anger matched by some excellent vocals from Wood and a very grabbing chorus plus some wicked guitar solos. This song has excellent tempo ranges building up to an explosive chorus and it's just a shame more songs didn't follow this template. "We're all architects of our own private hell. No one can hurt us like we've hurt ourselves". Next up is "Everything Ends", a track with a much slower tempo, which is one of my absolute favourites off the album. The guitar melodies are beautiful and the meaning of the song is so poignant that the emotion just shines all the way throughout. Wood again puts in a stunning vocal performance when he brings out his softer side and I get goose bumps listening to this one - "I had a conversation with a dying man. Till I pass it by, your love becomes an eye, the worst path to follow, swallowed by the sea. You said 'So? Enjoy it while you can'.".
That just leaves "Broadfields" which is a stunning way to close out the album. It is a complete departure from all the other songs with an acoustic, darkly atmospheric, yet tragic vibe to it. It begins slowly, building up to a deeply haunting and moving chorus which just teases the extent of emotion bubbling away in this song, before exploding towards the climax of the song with an incredibly impassioned outburst. The band, especially Wood, really let themselves go and ride a tumultuous rollercoaster which is impossible to not to feel. "I let my heart break in the Broadfields. It's the look between the fences, my hand unto the bridge. I swore that I would understand the whispers in the trees". So we get a mixed bag with this album that makes it quite hard to rate. With the exception of three awesome songs and a few creative pieces, the rest of the album kind of blurs together and makes the songs hard to distinguish between each other. Whilst being very fun to listen to with good sing-along properties they simply don't leave a lasting impression. However, the three awesome songs are so brilliant they alone are worth buying this album for. I think I would have rated this album 3/5, but these songs elevate it up to 4/5 - this is a band capable, but not having found the right balance yet to get that perfect album together, but I will certainly look out for more of their work in the future.
1. I Was Born, I Have Lived, I Will Surely Die - 6/10
2. Dearly Departed - 6/10
3. Bones - 10/10
4. Towers (On My Way) - 6/10
5. A Hymn for All I've Lost - 8/10
6. You Are Not (Lonely) - 8/10
7. Brother in Arms - 6/10
8. Learn My Lesson - 6/10
9. Everything Ends - 10/10
10. Interlude - 8/10
11. Headlights - 7/10
12. Broadfields - 10/10
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 I Was Born, I Have Lived, I Will Surely Die
2 Dearly Departed
4 Towers (On My Way)
5 A Hymn For All I've Lost
6 You Are Not
7 Brother In Arms
8 Learn My Lesson
9 Everything Ends