Album Reviews

Yard Act – The Overload

(Zen FC) UK release date: 21 January 2022

Yard Act - The Overload The music scene in 2022 seems like it needs a bit of a refresher. While the likes of Ed Sheeran and Adele are undoubtedly talented, there’s something very safe about them. What’s needed is a band who take risks, who sound utterly refreshing and will make parents around the country bang on bedroom doors, yelling “what the hell are you listening to?”.

Yard Act, a quartet from Leeds, may well be that band. You could never argue that they’re startlingly original though – anyone with a passing knowledge of The Fall will recognise Mark E Smith’s influence in James Smith’s sardonic vocals and his band’s spiky, punky songs – or indeed a fair few other ’80s indie bands (when ‘indie’ actually meant on an independent label).

Yet while there have been many Fall copyists over the years, none have done so with quite as much style and energy as Yard Act. Their stall is set out right from the off, with the bustling title track, featuring one of the best opening lines you’ll hear all year (“I’m shaking up my eight ball, cos I’m trying to see what tomorrow’s world has got in store for me”). There’s a zeitgeisty chorus of “the overload of discontent, the constant burden of making sense”, and Smith taking on the persona of a know-it-all dishing out advice about the music business – “you’re better off kicking that dickhead singer you’ve got out of the band”.

It’s a storming introduction to the band, and the pace doesn’t let up. While you can imagine almost any track blasting out from a discerning indie-disco, there’s also a lot going on underneath. Smith’s lyrics can often be laugh-out-loud funny, but there’s a deep sense of anger bubbling away underneath as well – see Dead Horse’s lament of post-Brexit England (“I’m not scared of people who don’t look like me, unlike you”) and Payday’s portrait of gentrification, or as the song puts it, “a ghetto fetish”.

As well as The Fall, there are nods throughout The Overload to the likes of Franz Ferdinand, Dead Kennedys and Ian Dury, but Yard Act’s influences never overwhelm their own personality. Witness is short, spiky and magnificent, while Land Of The Blind could almost be Talking Heads if they’d misspent their youth in the boroughs of West Yorkshire rather than New York’s Studio 54.

And then, just when you think you’ve got the measure of Yard Act, they pull the rug under you towards the end of the album. Tall Poppies is the six minute story of a “handsome man, good at football” who spent his youth seemingly destined for stardom, before having to settle for domestic obscurity once he reached adulthood. Other bands may sneer at their subject, but Smith adds some empathy (“he wasn’t perfect but he was one of us”) and clever self-deprecation (“he wasn’t too fond of long songs with lots of words”). Closing track 100% Endurance is even more surprising, a hungover mediation on life which recalls Mike Skinner‘s deeper moments.

There’s surprisingly no room on the album for Fixer Upper, a song which seemed to take up residence on 6Music’s playlist last summer, but that only demonstrates the strength of the material on this debut. It may be early to start taking notes on the Album Of The Year, but the smart money says The Overload will be there or thereabouts. Yard Act may not be here to save the music industry, but they’ll give it a damn good shake-up.

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More on Yard Act
Yard Act – Where’s My Utopia?
Yard Act @ Academy, Leicester
Yard Act – The Overload
Festival Review: Mutations Brighton 2021