Should we talk about it? The “PP” label? Can’t we just use “no-wave”, or last decade’s tired term “indie rock”, instead? No? Alright fine, then we better make it count: Post-punk is here to stay, and no band is doing it any better right now than British upstarts Yard Act.
The pure unrelenting sarcasm on album opener ‘The Overload’ sets the tone perfectly for the album: if you’re looking for your modern rock with a little more humour, a little more groove, and a little more sardonic spirit, then Yard Act are about to be your new favourite band. Whoever that arse who is being impersonated on the title track is, he makes for a wonderfully snotty central subject.
No one is safe from the band’s razor-sharp incisive wit: the worst of Britain in ‘Dead Horse’, out of touch hypocrites on ‘Rich’, or the corporate leaders that narrate ‘The Incident’. James Smith delights in the various characters he takes on, each one more aggrieved and less connected with reality than the last. By the time we’re listening to the hapless observer prattle on to recurring character Graeme on ‘100% Endurance’, Yard Act have successfully built their own extended universe around their detached bemusement.
But you can probably see the problem: a band so aligned with sneer-inducing lyrics and monotone vocal performances aren’t anything more than spoken word artists over dissonant guitar lines. Well, that’s the most refreshing thing about Yard Act – they actually have hooks.
Any band afraid of integrating melodies and earworms into their songs are the bands that couldn’t write any to save their lives, but Yard Act delight in the choruses that they know will get stuck in your head. It’s the siren song that brings you into the hilariously cutting commentary, and when paired with the high energy drive that band members Ryan Needham, Sam Shjipstone, and Jay Russell conjure up. They’re not there just to back up Smith – they’re creating their own fascinating sonic space that would work with any kind of vocalist overtop.
The material isn’t always as pointed or clever as the band believe themselves to be, but their hit rate is remarkably high, especially for a relatively young band. Completely self-assured and self-confident, Yard Act are the rare act that knows exactly who they are and what they want to be on their debut.
With The Overload, Yard Act have landed the first great album of 2022. In the process, they’ve set a high watermark for not just other so-called “post-punk” bands, but for all bands and artists making rock music right now. Mindless pop-adjacent pap won’t do, but neither will tuneless hucksters who think that angular riffs and off-kilter rhythms are all you need to start a band. Yard Act prove that having something to say is only as good as the package it comes in, and the quickest way to make a strong first impression is by making music that people actually want to listen to and sing along with.