Yard Act: The Overload - Track by Track Review

Yard Act have finally released their debut album "The Overload", what do we think of it here at Skiddle? Jonny Dickin is here to explain

Skiddle Staff

Last updated: 3rd Feb 2022

Yard Act recently missed out on the opportunity for their debut album to go to number 1, losing by a hair to Years and YearsBut when you take into consideration that Yard Act are a 4 piece post-punk band that only formed in 2019 and prior to this have only released a handful of singles, it's a testament to the bands' incredible chops that they can achieve such commercial success before they've barely even had a chance to establish who they are. Having said that, The Overload absolutely knows what it is and it makes no qualms about it.

So I figured I'd dig into this Leeds bands debut offering and break it down track by track to see just what they've conjured up that has already made a household name of them.

 

 

The Overload

Album opener and title track ‘The Overload’ rattles forward like a British sitcom set in a Northern pub; the various town players throwing tidbits and overheard headlines around the room, passing judgement on everyone and everything because, of course, they know best. The lyrics are delivered by varying characters, putting the world to right, bemoaning the youth of today. The second verse is golden as a newly introduced character tells a local band what they need to do to get big; it's so true to life, growing up as a musician in a small town, I have been spoken to in that manner countless times.

Musically, it calls back to the ’90s having the swaggering rhythms of the Happy Mondays and The Stone Roses, but it's propelled by jolting guitars and post-punk basslines. It's an infectious mix of nostalgia and modern punk attitudes.

 


 

Dead Horse

Dead Horse comes swaying out of the gate with a drum and bass groove that never relents throughout its run time. The bass has a metallic sharpness to it, revelling in its simplicity, stabbing at repeated notes, leaving plenty of room for the guitars to traverse through mysterious lead riffs and scratchy chords. It’s short, direct and certainly to the point.

It's in this track that Yard Act's mission statement is laid forth in the clearest terms; they’re disenfranchised. Angry about the state of this country and the people that run it. It laments for what was once a “Great country” as it talks of normalised racism, outdated viewpoints, the country's nature to mask things with comedy; but Yard Act aren’t laughing. It gets slightly more flippant in the second verse, taking its turn on the current state of British music and how people are scared of new things, but the message is crystal clear that, much like a lot of us in 2022, they’re not happy.

 


 

Payday

Things get a little more jovial on Payday, as we’re treat to bouncy synths and funky guitars. It’s short and simple, but its more progressive in its musical direction, building upon layers of guitars and synths to its upbeat, light-hearted crescendo, as frontman James Ryan repeats the hook “take the money and run” (perhaps a callback to our countries leaders discussed in ‘Dead Horse’?)

It’s a more spacious track, with James taking a step back from the mic somewhat, allowing the music to flourish and take centre stage. That's not to say his trademark speak/sing style isn’t as prevalent here, rather he shows restraint, allowing breathing space as the quasi-disco backing soaks up the attention it deserves.

 


 

Rich

Rich continues the simplicity, but introduces slightly more experimental elements. The bass never meanders from its hypnotising 2-note step, shackled to the drums like a one-man band as the lyrics ponder the possibility of, through hard work and penny pinching, becoming rich. It's humorous and fun for a while, but as the music takes a turn and we are introduced to dissonant pianos and saxophones, droning synth notes shroud the song in uncertainty. Yes, you may become Rich, but maybe life as a rich person isn’t all that great?

 


 

The Incident

Probably the most punk sounding The Overload has got up to this point, The Incident is raw and direct; there’s no studio trickery on show. Instead we have a song that keeps the winning formula of the ones before it, stripped to its bare essentials. The bass lines, much like the rest of the album, are the true musical hooks, the drums serve the song without getting flashy, the guitars pick and stab and the vocals effortlessly fill up the bars. It’s almost like super-Northern rapping, the way James fits syllables into gaps that would seem impossible.

Its final reprise of the chorus is a nice little rock out, too.

 


 

Witness (Can I Get A?)

And just like that The Incident’ title of most punk is removed, as Witness comes charging in at little over a minute. This is a lo-fi tirade of guitars and drums. It sounds like Oh Sees taking on a minimal approach to their garage punk stylings. It’s a perfectly fitting way to close out of the first half of the record: short, sweet and direct.

 


 

Land of the Blind

Land of the Blind has a mysterious and dark edge to it, but maintains Yard Acts’ uncanny ability of being simultaneously serious and tongue-in-cheek. The bass line takes the lead again as it and the drums groove through an audible alleyway with unfamiliar stares and offers of cheap highs. The best thing is to keep your head down and march on through, just as the track does. It doesn’t meander, something the album rarely does. It's focussed and direct. No nonsense, you might call it.

We get little vocal earworms here as James leads a chorus of “baba baba’s”. They lend perfectly to the creeped out aura of the track, like a neon sign tempting you into a dark doorway. Don’t worry though, there's just a bloke inside doing a crap magic trick with a 50 pence piece. You’ll be fine.

 


 

Quarantine The Sticks

Yard Act double down on the dark edge of Land of the Blind as we head into the shifting and grooving Quarantine The Sticks, with its Eastern-inspired chorus melodies. The verses are peppered with dissonant guitar rings and more character-driven lyrics.

But it's the chorus here that makes Quarantine The Sticks one of the highlights of the record: “Quarantine the sticks/same goes for sand/both should be banned/both should be banned/for a man with stick in hand/can’t help but stand a draw a line/in the ever-shifting sands of time”. The lyrics are mysterious as James becomes more philosophical than on previous tracks, but not only that, they’re sung - a rare treat on an album dominated by monotonous ramblings; not that they’re a bad thing, but it gives moments like this a chance to stand out.

 


 

Tall Poppies

The longest song on the album, Tall Poppies, coming to a soft and somber rest at over 6 minutes long is almost a novel; an audiobook set to motorik beats and basslines, progressing like that of a film cycling through different acts. It tells the story of a handsome man, popular in his small village - a village that grows in time alongside him. It chronicles his love life, his career, his death, his funeral and his legacy.

The music serves the story in a spectacular way, lurching forward at key moments, building to crescendos along with our main characters' accomplishments and finally slowing things to a mournful pace as we say goodbye to him. It's a truly impressive feat that highlights Yard Acts’ ability to feed off each other, music serving lyrics and vice versa. The closing moments of the song are the album's most serious and sincere and bring this epic tale to a fitting end.

 


 

Pour Another

Pour Another comes along to lighten the mood after the sombre tones that close out Tall Poppies, and it brings the light-hearted joviality back to the forefront. It’s poppy, upbeat melodies and keys serve as a palate cleanser from some of the more serious topics of politics, life and death and the state of things that the record has tackled thus far. While it may not seem as essential, Pour Another is a fun track that serves to maintain the balance.

 


 

100% Endurance

The album closer, 100% Endurance ties everything together that the album has laid out for us. It’s almost uplifting, as it takes a satirical approach to the “hippy bullshit” of living your life for now, because the World will carry on when you’re gone, so make the most of the time you’ve got now. Yes, Yard Act are unhappy with some things, rightfully so, but they know that time exists without them, without any of us and no matter what is going on now, we’re just organisms on a celestial body doing our thing until we’re not. And before I get a little too introspective, I best take a leaf out of Yard Acts book and bring this review to an abrupt close: “And when you’re gone… It’s not like there’s gonna be nothing, is it?”

 


 

Conclusions

The Overload is an exemplary debut album; it is swimming in confidence, particularly lyrically as it tackles topics ranging from serious and frightening to flippant and comical, often within a 3 minute run-time. While it doesn't we-write the post punk rule book and its drum and bass grooves become slightly over-familiar by the end of the record, it has endless character that makes up for its repetitive nature. It’s a particularly relevant record and it's no wonder Yard Act are making waves in the UK. If this is what they can conjure up for a debut, I can’t wait to see where they take things next.

 

Catch the inventive post-punk quartet live this year in venues around the UK. Tickets now on sale and available to purchase at the bottom of the page.

 


 

Check out our What's On Guide to discover even more rowdy raves and sweaty gigs taking place over the coming weeks and months. For festivals, lifestyle events and more, head on over to our Things To Do page or be inspired by the event selections on our Inspire Me page.

 

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Header image credit: Yard Act / Facebook

 



 

 

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