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  • Matt Codd

Yard Act: Where's My Utopia Review - A Sophisticated and Singular Sophomore Record

Yard Act are a unique band. Hailing from Leeds, the Yorkshireness that we are all familiar with pervades everything that the four-piece put into the world. They are funny, dry, sincere and brilliant. Their debut album, The Overload, peaked at number 2 on the charts after multiple rave reviews. It also ended up on the shortlist for the prestigious Mercury Music Prize. They have recently been announced as T'Other Stage Headliners for this years' Tramlines festival. Before this date with the Steel City though, their newly-rleased second album, Where's My Utopia, looks to pick up the torch from their debut and run with it.

This new album is quite a farcry from the things that propelled the band into the mainstream in 2022, but it shows a development and willingness to try new things that has to be respected, and the risk pays off. It would have been easy for the band to create another post-punk record, with post-punk having it's time in the sunlight at the moment, but that is not what Yard Act are about.

Opening track sets out this stall at the first possible moment. "An Illusion" sounds like a Gorillaz deep cut, switching from glitch-pop to ballad with ease. It's a tone-setter for the whole album, sonically diverse, never taking itself too seriously and highlighting the true strengths of this remarkable band. "Down By The Stream" carries a dark twist to rival the best storytellers, descending from what is a quite upbeat track to begin with into a threatening, distorted monologue, a shock to the ears but one that you cannot help but be enraptured by.

"We Make Hits", a hit in itself ironically, is an autobiographical track challenging the boxes that the quartet found themselves placed in, voluntarily or otherwise. The result proves the band are so much more than their original "poster boys of post-punk" label, now they make hits with biting humour and groove in equal measure. Dream Job is quite possibly the biggest example of this "mantra to which [they] commit". The lead single for this new cycle for the band, a true party banger and a quite inadvertant and reluctant feel good track when the subject matter is considered. As we enter festival season, and with Yard Act slated to headline our very own Tramlines' T'other Stage in July, you can see the tent loving every second of this 2 and a half minute shot of energy.

It's hard to find a through line between the 11 songs on Where's My Utopia. This usually suggests a lack of direction for an album, but here it is quite clearly deliberate. Where's My Utopia is an album the the Leeds boys use to blow up the labels, boxes and genres that the band have found themselves lumped in since their emergence. The band is unique, they know it and this album allows them to flex their muscles and show it. "Grifter's Grief" and the album closer "A Vineyard For The North" encapsulates totally what this album is. "Grifter's Grief" is manic and sincere and "A Vineyard For The North" is layered and feels so much bigger than anything the band have produced before..

"Fizzy Fish" is choc-full of not-so-subtle political allegories and is probably as outwardly angry as the band get on this second LP, railing against "think tanks" only asking the "fat fish" for opinions, while retaining their esoteric British charm. There is no way anyone outside these isles remembers Fizzy Fish.

"When The Laughter Stops", featuring the effervescent Katy J Pearson, reveals a different side to the band and lead singer James Smith. There's a vulnerability and rawness that is made all the more sincere and appreciated when held up against the biting wit and satire that you may consider Yard Act's calling card. The battle between these two contrasting ideas is nowhere more stark than on the epic "Blackpool Illuminations". A 7 minute spoken-word tale recounting trips to the seaside, framed as an interview at points, that is gripping, relatable, poignant and laugh-out-loud funny all at the same time. It begins reflective, introspective and melancholic, until the narrator is asked if his biggest fear is change, which he sarcastically answers, and the track builds in absurdity from there, all while retaining the heart and soul of that first 2 minutes. It's a triumph and has to be heard to be appreciated.

It ends in a soaring, piercing and beautiful moment, before James states "I attained perfection. So why the fuck was I wondering what wankers would think of album two." This moment truly sums up the album. Unapologetically confident and not worried about the new direction that the band seem to be taken. They don't care if you come with them or not, but Where's My Utopia is not something you want to let get away from you.

Yard Act will tour the UK in March, with the closest stop to Sheffield being stops in Manchester and Nottingham. You can grab tickets here. Then, later in the summer the band will play a huge hometown gig at Leeds' Millenium Square, alongside the aforementioned T'Other Stage headline set here in Sheffield at Tramlines on Sunday 28th July. Where's My Utopia is available on all streaming platforms and for purchase at all good record stores and the band's own store.


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