Years & Years - Night Call review: Pure pop fun? We’re more than ready

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 (Handout)
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Last year, if people spotted Olly Alexander and recognised him, it was probably as an actor. In January 2021 he was starring in It’s a Sin, Russell T Davies’ hit TV drama about the HIV/AIDS crisis – a breakout role so impactful that by the summer The Sun was claiming he was going to be the next Doctor Who.

But all the while, the 31-year-old was working on songs for the third Years & Years album, a turbulent process that included the scrapping of dozens of early compositions and a split from his bandmates Emre Türkmen and Mikey Goldsworthy. He kept the name, but this collection is effectively his first solo release.

As a band, Years & Years had a bit more indie credibility, and it sounds like charismatic Alexander’s desire to abandon this in favour of pure pop was a strong reason for going it alone. His recent TV appearances couldn’t be any more mainstream: duetting with Elton John at the Brit Awards, appearing with his It’s a Sin co-stars in a Great British Bake Off special on Christmas Day, and dominating BBC One’s New Year’s Eve coverage with a midnight concert alongside Kylie Minogue and Pet Shop Boys.

That shift is evident right across this album. While the sugary skip of If You’re Over Me felt out of place amid the darker compositions of the previous album, Palo Santo, it would be jostling in a six-way battle for the crown of catchiest tune here. The opening trio fizzes with such rampant energy that any home without its own illuminated dancefloor is going to feel sorely lacking. The heavyweight bassline and robot backing vocals of Consequences is followed swiftly by the glittering disco of the single, Starstruck, and then the standout chorus of the lot on the exultant title track.

Night Call is an apt name for the whole thing. It’s Alexander’s attempt to drag all of us back to the club, binning our box sets, rules and restrictions be damned. It can sit beside Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia as an album conceived in a fun-free time (away from Downing Street, at least) that revels in the sound of all that pent-up partying being gloriously released. Even the rare downbeat moments, such as Strange And Unusual and Make It Out Alive, don’t feel heavy. “I wanna get into trouble/Look at all that muscle,” he sings on Muscle – about as deep as it gets. The world is more than ready for some fun, and here it is.

(Polydor)

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