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Review: Young Guns – Ones and Zeros

It's been three years since the release of 'Bones'. Will their follow-up be worth the wait?

Young Guns have, from the beginning, made no bones about the fact they’re as much a pop band as a rock band. If there were any doubt, then this third full-length stands as firm testament to that. From the very start – the soaring, electronica-tinged euphoria of opener ‘Rising Up’ and its insistent, constant crescendo – right through to the end, this is undeniably and undoubtedly a pop record.

Yet it’s a pop record in the best kind of way – with songs full of heart and soul. Yes, there’s a glossy sheen that shimmers on the surface of the insistent, stadium-baiting I Want Out, but underneath the production’s sparkly gleam is an ample dose of heart and soul. That, pretty much, is the pattern of this record’s eleven songs. Whether it’s the existential uncertainty of _Infinity _– which boasts verses and choruses as big as the questions it ponders – the smooth and almost sultry nostalgia of Lullaby, or the outstretched arms of Gravity and its designed-to-inspire message of hope, there’s a balance between pop and passion, as well as a realness, to these songs that’s rarely found in the charts.

And the charts, surely, is where this record is bound to end up – and, let’s be honest, where it’s aimed. It’s an album of unashamed ambition, and one, in so being, that proves that you can still strive for real commercial success and keep your integrity intact. Because while it’s polished for fans of either Elliot Smith-style confessionalism or punk and metal, it perfectly occupies a middle ground that’s too often absent of music that actually means something. And whether you’re a fan of Young Guns or not, there’s no question that their intentions are pure.

It’s also the English five-piece’s most rounded and fully-formed record yet, and what it lacks in grit Ones And Zeros more than makes up for in conviction. Just listen to Gustav Wood’s impassioned vocal on Daylight – it’s almost impossible to not want to sing along, even before you’ve listened to it through once. Yet there’s substance there too, and if anything, that’s the difficulty for the band will lie in reconciling those two things, asserting themselves as a pop band with something to say as opposed to just one with nothing to say, that – like, say, The Killers – sweeps its audiences up in meaningless, nonsensical choruses that – because people often don’t listen or care – override the vapidity of what they’re actually singing. Of course, that’s out of Young Guns’ hands. They’ve done their work and they’ve done it well. It’s now up to everyone else to give them the credit they’re due.