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ALBUM REVIEW: Yard Act - Where's My Utopia?

Yard Act are back! After offering one of our favourite debut albums this side of the millennium back in 2022, the Leeds outfit have returned with their second record ‘Where’s My Utopia?’.

Although their 2023 single ‘The Trench Coat Museum’ does not make the album, it does follow the same lyrical and visual narrative of the record as a whole and gave us a great early indication of the sonic shift the band were attempting as they aim to refresh their sound and avoid sophomore stagnation. Big bass riffs, thick Indie-Disco grooves and moments of warped electronic expressions are ever-present throughout this album, giving it a distinctly different feel to their debut.

Tracks such as ‘Petroleum’ best define this new avenue of approach, leading with an electro drum sound and wonderfully deep and funky bass line. The track carries a moody swagger and head-bobbing rhythm with a decent chorus that sees the wonderfully piercing guitar tones of Sam Shipstone weave their way in. Yet, it is the finale of the track that provides the most intrigue. Once the main segment of the track makes way, a burst of frantic vocal calls, intense electronics and flourishes of guitar meld together with the Dance beat to provide a high-energy freakout finale. It is these moments on the album that seem to define the new sound of ‘Where’s My Utopia?’ and it is these moments that we really love.

Two of the album’s standout moments come in the form of singles ‘We Make Hits’ and ‘Dream Job’. The latter showcases the more expansive and bright tones that this album utilises. The chorus of backing vocals and the cinematic string sections bring a tongue-in-cheek euphoria, perfectly capturing the sentiment of the album title.

The former has to be our favourite track on the album, detailing the band’s trajectory and their internal battles between what they want to be and how they want to be perceived. Lyrics such as the lines below are intricate and fantastically formed both in meaning and phonetics yet the music is just as good. The scatter gun electronic drums pack a punch, the guitars have a rock swagger and the chorus has a fine balance of Post-Punk cynicism and Disco-Funk energy which makes for an infectious sound.

“I just wanna make a point that the culture would've died

And post-punk's latest poster boys wouldn't have got to ride

On the coattails of thе dead and claim that their derision

Is a vеhicle for their vision of subverting it instead”

While the understated, hypnotic melodies of ‘The Undertow’ are deserving of an honourable mention, our favourite of the non-single tracks has to be ‘Grifters Grief’, a song that channels the band’s poetic Post-Punk origins yet injects it with some clever sonic choices typical of this more expressive second album sound. The children’s choir, cascading guitar line and strange ‘mad house’ samples turn a groovy spoken word performance into a beautifully high-octane acid trip of a song.

Fans of the slow burning, lyric-sentric style of ‘100% Endurance’ will be a fan of the melancholic ‘Down By The Stream’ and penultimate track ‘Blackpool Illuminations’ which completely entrances you in an 8-minute long childhood story filled with endearing relatability and charm, poignancy as well as a customary dose of cynical humour. These songs, again, highlight the storytelling powers of James Smith.

On the whole, ‘Where’s My Utopia?’ has really impressed us. Although we believe that it lacks some of the more standout chorus’ of ‘The Overload’ with ‘We Make Hits’ and ‘When The Laughter Stops’ offering the only real infectiously repeatable singalong hooks, what it lacks in big chorus’ it more than makes up for in instrumental interest and fantastic textural production. It was always going to be a tough task for the band to create an album that felt acceptably new and separate from their debut due to how distinctive their sound is.

However, the newfound Disco-infused rhythms, funky grooves and immersive electronics offer up a tremendously rich instrumentation, full of flavour, that is undeniably a development on ‘The Overload’ yet still oozing with the distinctive Yard Act attitude. These thought out grooves allow James Smith’s lyrical constructions to shine through with just as much swagger, covering a range of topics that are simultaneously abstract and close to home, dipping into personal insights, the band’s approach to notoriety and themes of rat race mundanity and northern living amongst many more.

This cleverly reworked sound, that promises to make for some tantalisingly dance worthy live shows, mixed with the lyrical weaving of James Smith, which are as sharp as ever, make up for the somewhat lack of memorable chorus’ and make ‘Where’s My Utopia?’ a runaway success!


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