Young Guns are a band with a lot of self-belief. After their debut EP came out in 2009 – which led to a supporting slot for the Lostprophets – they released their debut album, entitled All Our Kings Are Dead, a year later under their own label. The album was received positively and paved the way for a headlining slot at the Kentish Town Forum in London and an appearance on the Main Stage at Reading and Leeds Festivals. Yet, despite bursting on to the scene with their high-octane debut album, the five-piece from High Wycombe set themselves the challenging task of outdoing their first album.
The sophomore album is the most dreaded; it’s often the album that can make or break an up-and-coming band. And Young Guns clearly felt the pressure when they returned to the studio, spending many futile hours trying to come up with a direction for the new album. However, thankfully for all those concerned, Gustav Wood, Fraser Taylor and John Taylor eventually came up with the basis for what would become Dearly Departed. “Once we wrote that song, we knew we could really make a mark with this album,” says Wood.
It’s easy to see how the song influenced the band’s approach to the rest of the album. It’s by no means a shocking departure from their debut album, but the song signals a shift towards a more universal sound, with a bold, infectious, guitar-driven chorus. While Dearly Departed may have laid the groundwork for the album, it is one of the weaker songs on Bones. The album opens with I Was Born, I Have Lived, I Will Surely Die, a song that sets Young Guns’ stall out early on, with thrashing guitars and Wood’s wailing vocals.
After the breathless start to the album, Young Guns become more reflective. You Are Not begins in a more considered fashion, with a slowly strummed guitar and Wood’s delicate vocal lulling the listener into a false sense of calm. While the verse is slow, there’s a sense that the band are collectively recoiling, readying themselves for another heavy sing-a-long chorus. Surely enough, the chorus eventually arrives in a big way. Everything Ends also takes the reserved approach, leading off with the piano, as Wood sings: “I had a conversation with a dying man / he said son make sure you live while you still can.”
Bones certainly manages to balance the more thoughtful, emotive side of Young Guns with their full-throttle, pummeling rock side. Yet the latter is where the band revels. The lead single from the album, Learn My Lesson, takes no time to get going, exploding from the blocks with enthralling guitars and a thumping drum beat. However, the undisputed highlight of the album is the colossal title track. Reverberating guitars open the song, chugging along until the double chorus kicks in, with Wood’s powerful vocals returned with emphasis by the rest of the band. “I’ve seen down the end of the road / now I deal in a different story,” yells Wood, over the catchiest hook on the album.
Overall, Bones is a much more accomplished album compared to their debut, the songs are more polished and Wood’s vocals are even stronger than first time round. Young Guns are unlikely to redefine music with their sound, which groups them with acts such as You Me At Six and Fightstar, along with the previously mentioned Lostprophets. Yet, the quintet do what they do well. Bones is full of addictive, driving rock anthems that will undoubtedly go down well on the band’s upcoming Bare Bones Club Tour. Young Guns may have pushed themselves to the edge to create Bones, but the end result confirms the hard work was more than worth it.