Album Review

Yard Act - Where’s My Utopia?

As much a joy intellectually as it is musically.

Yard Act - Where’s My Utopia?

A sense of impending doom was fused in Leeds lot Yard Act’s DNA from their emergence in the early days of the pandemic. Born of a time when it seemed the UK might ignite and slide into the North Sea without warning, their caustic, comedic post-punk offered the notion that if this is the end, we ought to go out laughing. Act two ‘Where’s My Utopia?’ picks up where debut ‘The Overload’ left off, confronting what happens after the world doesn’t, in fact, end. It expands on the intoxicating optimism of that debut, with principal songwriter James Smith - recently married and with a young son - at his most soul-bearing, having found something to keep fighting for.

The album’s glistening pinnacle is the sung-spoken opus ‘Blackpool Illuminations’. Bookended as a faux interview with a fictionalised version of himself, James’ retelling of a trip aged six to the seaside segues into a candid monologue about family: “At that age… you’re most in love with your parents / And when they’re happy together with you, you never want life to change”. It echoes the poignant ‘100% Endurance’, a deft tug at the heartstrings as he examines the lineage between his own upbringing and his responsibilities as a parent now. It’s endearing to hear a man in a conventional rock band sing so tenderly about his son - “We took you to Blackpool too, and I watched you like a hawk as you explored beneath the boardwalk in those big clumsy shoes”. Not unlike contemporaries IDLES, Yard Act understand that an injection of love and compassion creates contrast against the darker tones of an album, bringing cohesion and elevating it from being more than just a collection of songs.

There’s still heaps here to jump around to in sweaty club venues, too. It takes smarts to sound as silly as the band do on ‘We Make Hits’, an exuberant mission statement that distils the Yard Act ethos better than ever: “We just wanna have some fun before we’re sunk / And if that’s the attitude you exude then you know you’re really punk,” James snarls over a combo of warped strings and vocals. On the caterwauling ‘Fizzy Fish’ he gets up close and personal with a flow reminiscent of peak Mike Skinner, while the Katy J Pearson-featuring ‘When The Laughter Stops’ marks the band’s most addictive hook to date, a candidate for 2024’s biggest bop so far. The instrumentation is joyfully eclectic, peppered with chunky breakbeats and samples, Britpop in places (‘The Undertow’ in particular having a distinct Pulp-ian flair), and reggae and hip hop in others (Gorillaz’ Remi Kabaka Jr. is listed as producer, alongside the band themselves). An expansion on all fronts of Yard Act’s ability to meld the entertaining and the thought-provoking, ‘Where’s My Utopia?’ is as much a joy intellectually as it is musically, a leap in the right direction from one of our most promising groups of the day.

Tags: Yard Act, Reviews, Album Reviews

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