Years & Years – ‘Communion’

BBC Sound Of 2015 winners churn out a debut that takes no risks and has nothing to say

Years & Years won the BBC Sound Of 2015 poll in January. Past winners include Sam Smith (the only artist to shift a million LPs in both the UK and US last year) and Adele (whose album ‘21’ is the decade’s highest selling so far). So it seems a foregone conclusion that this electro-pop trio, formed in London in 2010, will find huge success.

Yet that remains the most arresting thing about them. Trying to locate an interesting interview with Years & Years is a grim task. You’ll be rewarded with some reflections on their continued rise (“Yeah, it’s nuts,” vocalist Olly Alexander revealed to Digital Spy. “It’s really nuts. It is fully nuts, actually.”) and some grumbling about being labelled middle-class. What else?

Well, there’s Alexander’s CV, which lists acting roles in Skins and posh-baiting film The Riot Club, but you can only spin so many words out of an abandoned (albeit promising) acting career, though, so we’re left with the music. An efficient but dull combination of pop-house and R&B, debut album ‘Communion’ recalls Clean Bandit with added melancholy, and Disclosure minus the purist-pleasing attention to detail.

When it pops, you get ‘King’, a banger that justifiably reached number one in March. If you’ve been anywhere near a hair salon recently, you’ll recognise its pounding synths and festival-ready, singalong chorus. A handful of similar tracks – like the bouncy, ‘90s-influenced ‘Desire’ – disappoint by offering nothing to match the crazed, whirling synth hook that makes ‘King’ so insistent, while beige heartbreak ballads such as ‘Border’ and ‘Memo’ take the house/R&B template but swap buoyant choruses for winsome crooning.

‘Communion’ takes no risks and says nothing. Each of its ballads could be a Sam Smith dance remix, each of its upbeat tracks potentially the soundtrack to a Littlewoods advert. With British music currently offering a grime revival spearheaded by Skepta, the kind of innovative R&B exemplified by FKA Twigs, and new guitar heroes like Wolf Alice, Years & Years are among the least compelling sounds of 2015.

Jordan Bassett