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Review: Yard Act - The Overload

A brilliant debut that lives up to its hype from a classic band in waiting.

By Dylan McNally, First Year History

A brilliant debut that lives up to its hype from a classic band in waiting.

Britain is not short of post-punk bands at the moment, but Yard Act are one of, if not the most, exciting. Certainly, they are one of the most necessary and they prove it with The Overload; a wiry, jittery yet urgent take on post-Brexit Britain and the characters that inhabit it. Their sound is a mix of The Fall, The Streets and Sleaford Mods, but where this album really takes off is with the intelligent lyricism and delivery from frontman James Smith, who proves himself as one of the best amongst this current crop. This is not a band that hides behind sloganeering, it is storytelling of exaggerated, yet ordinary lives that reflect the state of the nation.

There are many tracks that feel familiar for those already aware of Yard Act and the singles that gave them their initial hype. Yet this album is at its best when the formula is changed. More space is allowed within songs, giving the sense that each song has been truly thought out as opposed to falling back on easy crutches. The first side may be the most similar to previous releases but there is a departure even within this. The starkest changes, however, appear at the end of the album. Here the anger dissipates, the shouting turns to something more akin to singing and the songs become more sentimental. There is a bleak beauty to it, especially on closing track ‘100% Endurance’, which displays a maturity that other current guitar bands are yet to arrive at. It provides a nihilistic yet hopeful note on which to end an album enveloped in discontent.

Various characters pop up across the 37 minute run time, and whilst Graham from the Dark Days EP makes a few cameos, the cast of the Yard Act universe has widened, no longer reliant on a single person. There is the white-collar criminal of ‘The Incident’, or the footballing prodigy who chooses to stay in the village on ‘Tall Poppies’. These are snapshots of individuals which hold a mirror to the country they live in: ‘this crackpot country half-full of c*nts’.

Whilst ‘The Overload’ may be an album full of politics, it is not a political album. It is instead one that is full of individuals just trying to get by, in which the political inevitably lies. This is not a recipe stuck to completely – the band takes a wider view on songs such as ‘Dead Horse’. With its flinging of accusations and wistful longing, it feels almost like a break-up song. But it is penned about England rather than a previous lover. Similarly, title track and opener ‘The Overload’, is an ode to desperation and dissatisfaction (the ‘constant burden of making sense’). This is a balance that is struck well across the album; that of the micro and macro, which ensures that political points are made whilst not ignoring the individuals who live through the consequences (as well as allowing Smith to showcase his penchant for writing nuanced character studies).

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The Overload is the result of a band waiting, using every inch of their previous experience to make sure this chance doesn’t slip through their fingers. Not only has it not slipped through any fingers, it has been smashed out of the park, resulting in an album that fully deserves to be remembered as a classic. Yard Act have shown that they are ready for the success that will surely come their way, producing an album stable at its core, yet not afraid to experiment. You won’t find many albums this year with a line like ‘knob heads morris dancing to sham 69’.

The Overload is a perfect depiction of what it feels like to live in post-Brexit Britain delivered by a band fully confident in their abilities. The members of Yard Act have waited a long time for success, and it is a wait that is seemingly about to pay off.

Featured image: Island Records

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