Leeds band Yard Act haven’t been around for very long but already they’re hopping from grass roots support to world domination, with a clutch of singles and a mind-boggling world tour, which will see them releasing their debut album and no doubt return in style hoisted on the shoulders of a plethora of fans of acts like The Fall, John Cooper-Clarke, Joy Division, The Smiths, Happy Mondays, Pulp and Blur. The 4 piece of James Smith, Ryan Needham, George Townend and Sammy Robinson only formed in 2019 but most of them have previous in various local bands, coming together through connections to the Brudenell Social Club.
They have made the bold (though some might say cocky) decision to not include any of their already classic releases, instead relying on their abilities to carry through their talents for song writing on to a set of new songs…and why not I say. I’m all for not including already familiar songs on the album, preferring it to be viewed as a separate entity. Fans of the band may already be familiar though with opening song and title track “The Overload”, one of the many stand out moments from their live shows, and a song directly addressing the state of the nation, perfectly encapsulated in verse 2, with a local character offering the band advice by ‘kicking that dickhead singer you’ve got out the band/And getting yourself a gig down The Grand… Just don’t be doing originals/Play the standards/And don’t get political’. According to singer/writer James Smith it is ‘the age of the gentrified savage’, where ‘kids these days’ are ‘on the bottom rung sucking each other off and huffing designer bongs’, and all delivered in a deadpan Northern twang.
“Dead Horse” continues the journey through the realities of life, criticizing the paranoia of the present (‘I’m not scared of people who don’t look like me, unlike you’) and this country’s inability to see the great things we have to offer (humour and music), and instead falling foul of the national front, fake news and ‘knob heads Morris dancing to Sham 69’. Paranoia is a common theme, as expressed in the fear of holding on to money in “Rich” (or is it just wishful thinking?).
“Witness” has the feel of a sped up classic John Cooper Clarke song, whereas the guitar work in “Land of the Blind” brings to mind some of the middle eastern flavours that inform Tom Waits at times. “Tall Poppies” is unusual in that it is at least twice as long as the rest of the songs on the album, allowing for James to expand on the life story of a man (Graham from “Fixer Upper” perhaps) ‘He wasn’t perfect but he was one of us,’ who ‘wasn’t too fond of long songs with long words’, which starts with a litany of the life traits of a simple man who is good at football and acquires a ‘second home on the Costa Del Sol’, and ends with a whimper of sadness and regret ‘we cry because children are dying across the sea and there isn’t anything we can do about it’, providing perhaps the most poignant moment in an album otherwise full to the brim of wit and criticism, which shows that James also has a real affinity and fondness for the real characters, who are caught, through no fault of their own, in the net of life.
The album ends with “100% Endurance”, in a downbeat fashion which sees James observing about life that ‘it’s all so pointless, but it’s not though is it?’…’Death is coming for us all but not today” is the refrain that rings out at the end, which I prefer to the sentimentality of “One Day Like This” by Elbow for example.
In Yard Act we finally have a real band that we can all get behind and believe in, and in The Overload there is enough wit, sarcasm and hope that we can all relate to and get behind.
The Overload is out on 21st January via Island Records / Zen F.C. – pre-order now
Find out more on Yard Act’s official website
Review by Andrew Wood