Indie Music

Yard Act review – a band having fun in the midst of an identity crisis

‘Who prefers our earlier work?” Yard Act frontman James Smith asks the audience, and it’s a question you get the sense he has been asking himself of late too. A crowd member is brought up on stage to spin a wheel, offering a one-time-only chance to hear a randomly selected song from the band’s 2021 debut EP Dark Days. It lands on the title track and the band dutifully bash out the kind of jagged post-punk that led to their rapid ascent during lockdown.

Three years on, with the band seemingly feeling restricted by their own earlier sonic template – one which they created, by their own admission, in a deliberate attempt to board the last train out of post-punksville at the end of the decade – they return with a more electronic rock-leaning sound. There are lashings of synth, blasts of sax, a new pair of backing vocalists, and basslines straight out of the ESG playbook. On new tracks such as When the Laughter Stops, they glide into LCD Soundsystem territory, stretching out pulsing beats and hypnotic rhythms into locked grooves, while Dream Job veers closer to Ian Dury with its almost pub-rock disco stomp.

They then bring out Napalm Death’s Shane Embury for a cover of Motörhead’s Ace of Spades, which is riotously good fun despite the randomness of the collaboration. You can detect the band’s enthusiasm draining when playing some earlier material: Payday sounds a little tired and worn, unfolding routinely rather than with any real punch or vigour. However 100% Endurance, also from the band’s debut album, remains an arresting closer as it sputters out in a blast of discordant harmony.

Right now Yard Act sound like a band wrestling with who they are. Propelled by a zeitgeist that unexpectedly blew up, they’re now asking: what do we actually want to be? A clear-cut and solid identity may still be being forged, but in the meantime they sound like they’re having fun as they move further away from their dark days and forward into the light.

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