A little over three years after their last full length, British Rock’s prodigal sons have finally returned with a new album, and if we’re honest, we’ll admit our expectations were high. Let’s see – hear – if they were met.
‘Ones And Zeros’ kicks off with a punch to the face : opener Rising Up‘s hook — ‘so give it to,give it to me’ and massive riffs —, is more than efficient : it grabs the listener and catapults them directly into the album. From the first minute of listening, we’re made comfortable with a theme that isn’t unusual with Young Guns : ‘we’re all alone,we’re all bastard sons’ is a clear nod to their first full length ‘All Our Kings Are Dead’. As we fade into I Want Out,a song we’ve been listening to on repeat since August of last year, it is clear once again that this one track is Young Guns at their best : catchy, loaded with amazing melodies and powerful vocals courtesy of Gustav Wood.
Their third track Infinity could be summed up by one word : immense. The instrumental is massive, and Gus’ vocals once again have the presence to carry it. And this is why fourth track Memento Mori is such a surprise and a disappointment at the same time : with such an intriguing intro, our attention is very well caught and it stays that way during the synth-heavy verse, but the song quickly fails to convince us : it lacks a little something, that little something that can make an album filler into a great song. The bridge, though, for a few seconds, does have that immensity we felt in Infinity, but overall, we’re not convinced, even after a few listens, and we’ll say that might be due to the fact it’s placed after such a strong album start, but it still feels like a filler, which is never good four songs in.
Things slow down with Lullaby, and the song lives up to its name, it is indeed a lullaby. The message behind it is admirable and poetic, however, hearing something like “don’t waste your life away” , and the lexical field of living your life while you can is a repeat of previous album ‘Bones’ song Everything Ends, only slightly different. The gang vocals on a slower songs do work, though, and once again the vocals are perfectly executed along with impeccable lyrics. Thankfully, the ride starts up again at full speed with previously released Daylight. With a hook as powerful as “all we need is daylight”, it’s more than clear that this song has enormous live potential, and having heard it before, we appreciate it to its full potential, but being placed right here right now in the album, it sort of gets lost in everything Young Guns are trying to convey with this release, and could wrongly feel like a filler when it clearly is not one.
The transition into fellow single Speaking In Tongues works wonderfully, though, and with impeccably written verses and an over-efficient chorus, this song is a clear win, especially here after three slower songs; just like I Want Out previously, it shows the band at their best, and clearly a step further from their previous releases. The next track Colourblind finally shows us where this album really needs to go and reunites all the traditional Young Guns ingredients : a strong bassline and good riffs, clever lyrics, and their trademark ‘woah’s before the chorus. Overall we could go as far as saying it is the first highlight from the album that we hadn’t heard prior to the release and weren’t familiar with (which, eight songs in, is a shame, but we’ll pass on that). Ninth track Gravity immediately strikes us as ‘All Our Kings Are Dead’-esque, with light electronic sound and a lot of synth added to the mix. It doesn’t have all the depth a song like this would maybe need, but it works, and just like Daylight, we can clearly feel a strong live potential.
The penultimate song Die On Time is a ballad, and a great one ; to say the very least, it lives up to its greatly poetic title, and Young Guns pass the hard test of writing a good ballad while being a rock band with flying colours. Closing — and title — track Ones And Zeros feels like the confetti bands fire up at the end of arena shows : once again, its potential to be played in front of a crowd, be it as a support or headline act, is massive, and it might make one wonder one thing : “why keep it for the end ?” but it fits perfectly as a closing track.
Overall, it really is a mixed album Young Guns deliver : while some of the songs feel like the pushiest of fillers, others are truly worth every single second of the long wait that preceded this album, and we can only hope the British quintet play the latter live.
Young Guns – ‘Ones And Zeros’
Released : June 8th, 2015 via Virgin EMI.