Yard Act – ‘The Overload’ album review

Despite only forming in early 2020, Yard Act have already gained a loyal following through with their tongue-in-cheek and sometimes scathing observations on today’s society. Now, they’re set to release debut album ‘The Overload’ with frontman James Smith saying: ‘I just hope it makes people laugh at the peculiarities of human nature. The world feels very heavy at the moment; it has done for a while, and when bad things happen, the weight of the world makes you panic, you want to change everything like flipping a switch. But that’s not how it works. All you can do is plant seeds. I don’t think good and bad really exists, and I don’t think you can change people’s minds any other way. So that’s what I hope, but I also just hope people can just enjoy it. And I hope it lasts. I hope people like the detail – I think we can learn a lot about each other through an observational smirk.’

Opening with the title track’s fusion of angular guitars and recollections of children ‘sucking each other off’ and indulging in ‘designer bongs’, you instantly understand the kind of place James is painting a picture of – it’s modern life and some of it may well be rubbish. He also regales some of the advice bands get from well-meaning landlords in working men’s clubs: ‘Don’t get political’. The dark humour continues throughout the album, but especially so on ‘Dead Horse’ as James laments a country ‘full of cunts’ and asks ‘What becomes of the inhabitants of this once unstoppable isle when all of it’s exports are no longer in style?’ He answers his own question by imagining ‘All that’s left is knobheads morris dancing to Sham 69’. This then moves onto criticism of the lack of respect and support given to the nation’s last great hope – good music. Long-time Spectral Nights fave Ryan Needham’s woozy bass line drives ‘Rich’ forward as James takes on the mantle of someone who fell into money and decided to take tips from our government on how this means you should act: ‘Almost by accident, I have become rich’; ‘I fucking love being rich’; ‘It appears I have no shame’; ‘I’ve done some terrible things because I’m rich’.

‘The Incident’ also finds James taking on a character – one of the features of this album – who may well be a hedge fund manager. He’s full of praise for himself for everything he’s done and how he’ll do anything to stay relevant – but never at his own expense. ‘Witness (Can I Get a?)’ moves into more of a Buzzcocks sound with melodic hooks and rhetorical questions, while ‘Quarantine the Sticks’ continues in this fuzz-laden direction with hints of The Fall or Art Brut: ‘Do you really think I’d give away all my tricks because you clicked your fingers twice?’ While most of the songs on the album are between two and three minutes long, ‘Tall Poppies’ clocks in at over six minutes and finds James recalling the most popular boy in his school – the one who was a hit with all the girls and the best at football, getting a trial at Crewe Alexandra – and his life: ‘He could smoke 10 a day and still run faster than that whippet that could lap the race track rabbit’. He talks about how he never left the village, despite all these opportunities, and instead settled for life as an estate agent as gentrification took hold. He then heartbreakingly reveals how his life crumbled apart after putting his mum in a phone and being made redundant twice with repeated warnings of ‘Get yourself checked’ and a wistful ‘He wasn’t perfect but he was my friend. He was one of us’.

While the penultimate ‘Pour Another’ heads into a new wave-meets-post punk direction with talk of how bleakness blights everything, the final ‘100% Endurance’ continues with the humorous yet emotional approach. Starting with wondering exactly what happened – ‘Who’s sofa is this? Where are my shoes? What did I do last night? I can’t remember leaving Nathan’s house. Oh yeah, how could I forget when my pants were soaking wet when we’d been pissing ourselves laughing at the news’ – it then goes on to ponder the point of mortality and why we’re all here. However, James soon shakes this off and realises that when we go, there’s opportunities for others: ‘Death is coming for us all but not today. Today, give it all of what you’ve got’; ‘It’s all so pointless and when you’re gone, it makes me stronger knowing that this will all carry on with someone else, something new. It’s not like it’s gonna be nothing, is it?’

Yard Act’s debut album is one that is huge on laughs but also emotions, with so many wry observations succinctly summing up where we are today.

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