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  • Writer's pictureEmma Egan

ALBUM REVIEW: Fame and Self-Loathing take Center Stage in Yard Act's "Where's My Utopia?"

Fame changes people, and Yard Act isn’t afraid to say it.

Debuting at #2 on the UK Charts, their Mercury Prize nominated first album, The Overload, established Yard Act as “post-punk poster boys” straight out of the gate. With commercial success comes along grander production budgets and limited restrictions putting the group in a newfound position for evolution. Their second studio album, Where’s My Utopia? examines the conflict that comes alongside their growing fame. As it turns out, getting what you want doesn’t solve your problems, and might have only created new hurdles for our trying troubadours.

The Overload was strengthened by it’s relatability. Released into a pandemic-stricken, socially isolated world, the stripped back LP is truly a product of it’s surroundings. It’s both surreal and intensely relatable, placing the album firmly within the post-punk pantheon we’ve seen coming out of Ireland and the UK as of late.

In contrast, Where’s My Utopia? is a maximalist wonderland. Co-produced by Remi Kabaka Jr of Gorillaz, the record is a sonic sidestep away from Yard Act’s post-punk beginnings. The bass fronted sound heard across The Overload is swapped out for a new groove characterized by record scratches, samples, and genre-spanning instrumentation.

In terms of production, there’s a veritable buffet to sink your teeth into. Yard Act’s influences are endless across the record, nestling in bits of disco, funk, post-punk, and everything in between from track to track. It’s excessive, at times overwhelmingly so, but somehow it works. 

The tracks feel deep and spiraling, providing something new on every listen. The first single off the record, “We Make Hits” is a perfect example of this excess. Y2K reminiscent beats, vocoded harmonies and frantic funk samples sit alongside the sprechgesang sensibilities we’ve come to expect from the group. It’s grandiose in a way that feels unachievable by the Yard Act of years pas, and really allows the groups vision to evolve to a new level.

Vocally, there’s a large shift from humorous self-awareness towards deeper self-reflection. Tongue-and-cheek critiques of a post-pandemic Britain turn inward towards vocalist James Smith’s hesitancy towards their newfound fame. Sometimes bright and comedic, at other times darkened and guilt ridden, Smith’s vocal performance is uncertain in a way that makes the band's meteoric elevation to fame feel inherently personal. Airing out the guilt of his past and the tradeoffs fame have created in between his band and his family, Smith once again carves out a home for relatability. “Down By The Stream” and “The Undertow” show this newfound attitude best, unraveling the thick layers of irony and distortion and making the surreal intimate.

Confidently stepping forward with their uncertainty on full display, Where's My Utopia? wrestles with a universal tension that comes with change. The album takes a lot of swings, and for the most part hits, opening up new avenues for the group to step towards in records to come.


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