Review: Yard Act – Overload

Through Dylan McNally, First year history

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

Britain has no shortage of post-punk bands at the moment, but Yard Act is one of the most exciting, if not the most exciting. Certainly, they are among the most necessary and they prove it with The Overload; a nervous, edgy but urgent take on post-Brexit Britain and the characters who 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 clever lyricism and delivery of frontman James Smith, who happens to be one of the best among this current generation. It’s not a band that hides behind slogans, it’s the storytelling of exaggerated but ordinary lives that reflect the state of the nation.

There are plenty of tracks that sound familiar to those who are already familiar with 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 in the songs, making each song feel like it’s been really thought out instead of falling back on easy crutches. The first side is perhaps the most similar to previous versions, but there is a gap even inside this one. The most striking changes, however, appear at the end of the album. Here the anger dissipates, the screams turn into something closer to singing, and the songs become more sentimental. There’s a dark beauty to it, especially on the closing track “100% Endurance”, which displays a maturity that other current guitar bands have yet to achieve. It provides a nihilistic yet hopeful note on which to end an album shrouded in discontent.

Various characters appear over the 37-minute runtime, and while Graham from the Dark Days EP makes a few cameos, the cast of the Yard Act universe has expanded, no longer reliant on one person. There’s the white-collar criminal from ‘The Incident’, or the football prodigy who chooses to stay in the village of ‘Tall Poppies’. These are snapshots of individuals holding up a mirror of the country they live in: “this crazy country half full of c*nts”.

While ‘The Overload’ may be an album full of politics, it is not a political album. Rather, it is a world filled with individuals who are just trying to get by, in which politics inevitably finds itself. It’s not a one-size-fits-all recipe – the band takes a broader view of songs like ‘Dead Horse’. With its accusations and nostalgic longing, it almost sounds like a breakup song. But it’s written about England rather than a former lover. Likewise, the title track and opener “The Overload” is an ode to despair and dissatisfaction (the “constant burden of making sense”). It’s a balance that is well struck throughout the album; one of micro and macro, which ensures that political points are made while not ignoring the individuals who live with the consequences (while allowing Smith to show his penchant for writing nuanced character studies).

The Love Saves the Day festival announces its 2022 line-up

Review: Sonotto – Could We Be Closer EP

The Overload is the result of a band waiting, using every inch of their previous experience to make sure this chance doesn’t pass them by. Not only did it not slip through the fingers, but it smashed out of the park, resulting in an album that fully deserves to be remembered as a classic. Yard Act showed that they are ready for the success that will surely come their way, producing an album that is stable at its core, but 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 representation of what it feels like to be in post-Brexit Britain, delivered by a band fully confident in their abilities. The members of Yard Act have long awaited success, and it’s an expectation that seems about to pay off.

Featured Image: Island Records

Have you heard the album?

Comments are closed.