What would it have sounded like if Mark E Smith had fronted Blur? The answer is: Yard Act. The Leeds four piece have put together a snapshot of the UK using a caustically humorous cast of invented, or possibly borrowed from real life, characters – all typifying gobby Brexit Britain and a tight collection of faultless pub-punk anthems.
Where the britpop bands, or acts like The Libertines, celebrated what it meant to wave a Union Jack during the New Labour boom years, to be able to consider lauding Britishness in a post-Nigel Farage, post-credit crunch, isolated island of Mail Online readers in 2022, wound up and angsty after 12 years of Tory rule, frontman James Smith has to insert himself into the minds of a host of money hungry entrepreneurs (‘Rich’), chancers (‘Payday’) and no win – no fee ambulance chasers (‘Witness (Can I Get A)’), a gaggle of folk looking to take all they can get away with, drily jocular narratives told over a raft of industrial basslines and post-punk guitar.
When one of their most direct punk peers, Idles, confrontationally interrogate their listeners moral integrity, Yard Act shine a simple light on Joe Public’s values by deconstructing a northern suburb, reminding the listener of the dodgy opinions and beliefs that exist and get bandied about in neighbouring cul-de-sacs and industrial estates of every town and city.
Wearied by the time we get to ‘Tall Poppies’, the curtain slips and the band reveal they’re actually totally compos mentis here, telling a fond hearted, big fish in a small pond tale, the flimsy bravado of a man who dies having never left his village. There’s sympathy and understanding there which serves to heighten the tragedy.
With ‘100% Endurance’, the cocky and conceited characters have all been booted off the stage and we’re left listening to a band, woken up hungover, considering humdrum, unremarkable life beyond these isles and way off into the stars, who find no value in seedy capitalism, who think the rat race is a farce and who have overcome the existential angst bogging down whole swathes of the nation. “It’s hippy bullshit – but it’s true.” Yard Act want the same for even the most paranoid ex-UKIP voter, and what better way of exposing an ugly scene than painting a perfectly detailed picture of it?
Yard Act’s debut album ‘The Overload’ was released through Island Records on 21st January 2022. You can buy it in a dazzling array of limited edition formats by clicking here. Also check out their site for a whole load of approaching tour dates. And watch the video for Rich below: