Album Reviews

Yard Act – Where’s My Utopia?

(Island) UK release date: 1 March 2024

How to improve on a fantastic debut album? Make a minor tweak to an already-successful formula that emphasises something distinctive but underdeveloped about the original, of course

Yard Act - Where's My Utopia? The modern ‘post-punk’ landscape is littered with fantastic sequels to fantastic debut albums – from Joy As An Act of Resistance to Stumpwork, A Hero’s Death to Gigi’s Recovery, O Monolith to Ants From Up There. It’s a tradition of the genre, apparently – from Antics and An End Has A Start of the revival era all the way back to Closer, Seventeen Seconds and Chairs Missing of the original era.

So perhaps it’s no surprise that Yard Act’s second album is a success for the same reason all those other great sequels were successful: a minor tweak to an already-successful formula that emphasises something distinctive but underdeveloped about the original. For Joy Division, it was the darkness. For Dry Cleaning, the whimsy. For Yard Act? Their humour and their unabashed silliness.

Yard Act are just about the most accessible of the modern crop of ‘talky’ guitar bands because they’re not afraid to temper their bile with humour, and they play up their kitchen-sink kitsch Englishness to tremendous effect. They’re the Everyman of the scene, with the most easily noticeable influences, and the biggest heart.

It’s no surprise that album opener An Illusion is silly. It’s slow and sensual and rolls along at a lazy, yacht rock pace until a dark, Morricone guitar slithers its way in like a glittering rattlesnake – none of the things you’d probably expect to read about a Yard Act. They follow that with We Make Hits – which you’ll have definitely heard by now – which sounds like an old Yard Act vocal played over a Franz Ferdinand backing track, which is to say it’s strange, and strangely danceable.

Down By The Stream is stripped down in a Sleaford Mods sense, with some added scratching and a thickened hip hop rhythm. A delight. The Undertow – another one of the many highlights of the album – is sleek and slinky and streamlined, a style they resume later on the record but reflect through a funhouse mirror with When The Laughter Stops (featuring Katy J Pearson, an interpolation of Stardust’s The Music Sounds Better With You, and the seriously weird inclusion of Macbeth’s infamous “Life’s but a walking shadow” speech.)

Dream Job – another one you’ll definitely have heard – is a freaky slice of mutant disco that would be just as suited to early ’80s New York as it is 2024. Fizzy Fish and Petroleum are both wonderfully wonky, with oddball guitar skronks and off-kilter rhythms. There are three other songs, but there might as well be another 30 – all of the songs here are consistent in their willingness to do something different, something strange, something risky.

On their first album, Yard Act were a very good band who leaned into the influence of some very significant forebears (not least The Fall) and a wonderfully funny lyricist. But on this one, they’ve become a great band. It’s harder to take them seriously here, but perhaps that’s something they’ve never wanted. They’re more than content with being the class clowns, and we’re more than happy to have them.

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Yard Act – Where’s My Utopia?
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Yard Act – The Overload
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