Navigating the modern world and all its injustice with a snarling sense of sarcasm, Yard Act’s seething debut The Overload mixes raw instrumentation with eclectic post-punk breakdowns and… bongos?
The Leeds quartet might have ditched the title ‘Yard Act: The Musical’, but this sonic soap opera does indeed serve as such by observing 21st-century society through the gritty ideas of a working-class man trying to get by, presenting a complex, visceral snapshot of capitalism and greed.
Fortunately, The Overload is also a fitting description of the mental bombardment at play here, and the titular opener charges up a warbling, dark tone that rattles off sharp lyrics with furious and desperate speed – you’ll need a lyric sheet for this one.
Slow, thick bass and deftly unrefined riffs instil a grounded feel to this ‘concept record’, building an addictive backing to the spoken word which proceeds to remark on a flurry of current concerns, such as fake news (‘Dead Horse’), spending habits (‘Payday’) and, inevitably, COVID (‘Quarantine The Sticks’).
‘Rich’ defines how emotionally meaningless fiscal wealth is, spinning a tale of a man twisting a hospital into a business – ouch, maybe too real – against a simple, spiralling backdrop of audible frustration. ‘The Incident’ continues to criticise materialism and selfish executives with a chanting reflection of induced incompetence: “salaried with the implicit threat of instant dismissal / all legal mind, meagre scraps for tender prey.” This is a typical example of the cutting wit behind each line packed into the dense 37-minute runtime of ‘The Overload’.
While the teases unleashed in the promotion run-up to this moody debut introduced the consistent tone that plays out across all 11 tracks, there are still surprises and hidden gems aplenty. ‘Witness’, a single minute interlude into the second half of this expedition, pulsates with electronic influence and truly shows how limited time can be utilised effectively. “I am at war with the lord, but the board is on my side”? Genius.
The remaining five tracks certainly don’t relent either, with ‘Tall Poppies’ tearing down the self-indulgence of the privileged in a mockery fuelled by enthralling delivery from all four Yorkshiremen, concluded that everyone is doomed. Big mood.
‘Pour Another’ then plots jubilant keys under a wide-eyed, popcorn-chewing survey of the world burning, or more accurately burning itself. What’s the point? Who even cares? This is pondered within a danceable, disco-esque banger that flows into a more positive finale assuring that our very existence isn’t entirely pointless. How reassuring.
It’s never been so fun to laugh at your own suffering than throughout this endlessly quotable parody of capitalism; our world in which we are torn apart from the inside out. ‘The Overload’ fits into the on-trend post-punk sound but breathes a freshly cynical yet charming soul into their interpretation of the genre; it’s a sound that’s not entirely raw or deep-cutting by itself, but the words themselves certainly add a heft punch. This cohesive journey delivers a commentary that one can only hope will not be relevant for too long; when it undoubtedly is, at least Yard Act will keep us laughing, crying and dancing the internalised pain away.
Yard Act’s The Overload is out this Friday (January 21st) via Island Records and is available to pre-order and pre-save now.
Feature image by Phoebe Fox