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CD of The Week

Week of 3/11/24

    Yard Act - Where's My Utopia? (Republic)

    Yard Act immediately distinguished themselves amongst the new crop of UK post-punk revivalists with the funky hooks and political and witty sensibility of their 2022 debut, The Overload. That being said, the genre-bending adventurousness of their sophomore effort, Where’s My Utopia?, comes as a minor shock. Exploring the terrain of samples, loops, and backing choirs, the album shares the skewed worldview of the band’s previous material while being a clear level-up sonically.

    The choice of co-producer, Gorillaz drummer Remi Kabaka Jr., marks the first hint that Yard Act is up to something appealingly different. “We Make Hits” boasts clever, self-deprecating lyrics from frontman James Smith but also engages with disco unironically (although the “auto-tune” does seem at least a bit mocking). Smith tries a hip-hop cadence on a few tracks, but he does so with surrealistic imagery, such as a remark about “chipping away at the coal face of my own self-loathing" on “Fizzy Fish.” The rhythm section of bassist Ryan Needham and drummer Jay Russell deliver slyly funky grooves throughout the album and the addition of elements like strings and synths (such as on “The Undertow”) to those grooves makes for thrilling listening, especially since the songs rarely have traditional structures.

    On rare occasions, the experiments can be a bit forced, as is true with the mumbling spoken word of the epic-length “Blackpool Illuminations.” Where’s My Utopia? does try to balance everything but the kitchen sink, but the Leeds-based quartet largely pull it off with their confidence and clever arrangements. While not quite at the same level of quality, the album has the same experimental energy of classics like Odelay! and Merriweather Post Pavillion. Whether transporting you to the dance floor (“Dream Job”) or encouraging political contemplation (“Grifter’s Grief”), Where’s My Utopia? keeps providing rewards. In just two albums, Yard Act have certainly established themselves as a special band.

    Yard Act will be bringing their unique, energetic sound to Union Transfer on Thursday, October 10th.
    Review by Sol

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