The No Badger Required End of Year Top Ten Tracks

Number 6 (and album of the year runner up)

The Overload – Yard Act (2022, Island Records, Taken from ‘The Overload’)

In 2021, Yard Act sort of emerged from nowhere, a band who had seemingly spent the best part of the lockdown perfecting their sound.  A sound which sits almost snugly in the massive unfilled gap vacated by the sad death of Mark E Smith.    That sound is an angular, arty post punk sound.  It’s all disco drums that pretty punch you into submission, guitars that are all spiky and pointed and basslines that fight their way to the front and take charge.  Pretty much exactly what any post punk should sound like.  However, it’s when you add the vocals, half sung, half delivered in a deadpan way by front man James Smith that Yard Act really come alive.   There is something about James Smith that is engrossing, the fact that lyrically he is more Jarvis than Mark E Smith, but vocally he is more Mark E Smith than perhaps anyone since Mark E Smith (I like to see this album as the sequel to ‘Perverted by Language’).  Although it is a lazy (but obvious) comparison.

I think it’s the way that bands create characters and situations that people can relate to, Pulp did that very well during their golden period in the early nineties.  ‘The Overload’ confronts post Brexit Britain and delivers a frankly waspish portrait of it, although literally no one disagrees with them.

The age of gentrified savage….the overload of discontent

It’s a wonderful track and rather splendidly heralded in one of the most unlikely number one albums of all time.  That album captures perfect what I am inadequately saying above, it has brilliant song after brilliant song about alpha males, embezzlers, middle class gardeners, the stupidity of the far right.

The Incident – Yard Act (2022, Island Records, Taken from ‘The Overload’)

Quarantine the Sticks – Yard Act (2022, Island Records, Taken from ‘The Overload’)

The finest two moments of the album (with the exception of The Overload) are ‘Tall Poppies’ a seven minute epic that deals with a local lad, a most handsome man who becomes an estate agent and settle downs with a local girl and the gets cancer and dies.  Then the music slows and virtually stop in its entirely and Smith continues with his delivery and the story and like everything else about this album, it is excellent.

Tall Poppies – Yard Act (2022, Island Records, Taken from ‘The Overload’)

The other standout track is ‘100% Endurance’ which has a gentle piano running through and it is this song perhaps more than others, which sounds like Pulp.  It is again a story about the discovery of life on another planet, as told my someone with a hangover.  It an infectious blast of brilliant optimism, all accompanied by the piano and a sweeping string section.  Even the hastily rerecorded version with Elton John is marvellous.

100% Endurance – Yard Act (and Elton John) (2022, Island Records, Taken from ‘The Overload’)

The Sunday Shuffle – #19

Bathed in Light – Gengahr (2014, Transgressive Records)

Todays randomly shuffled track comes courtesy of the iPod Nano which was keeping me company as I wandered around Newton Abbot trying to find a present for a 7 year old. My decision was that I would post the first song that came on after I had bought this present.  The problem is the shops in Newton Abbot are largely terrible and there only about three shops that are worth going into and one of those is a record shop, and great as it is, I’m not sure the new Yard Act is all that appropriate for 7 year olds.

Land of the Blind – Yard Act (2022, Island Records)

In the end I play it safe and buy a book about school dinners being disgusting, and press play on the iPod.  I am met with the flickering organ synths, squealing guitars and twinkling falsetto vocals of possibly the finest band to ever be named after a Pokemon, Gengahr.

‘Bathed in Light’ has this dreamy quality to it, but it’s a dream with a slight edge, because underneath those little hazy organ synths is something harder waiting to pounch.  You get a hint at the songs snarling underbelly in the very first line that singer Felix Bushe utters, which is “the smog in your voice makes me vomit”.  It sounds like a lyric that should be snarled, but its more crooned that anything else, and then as the final minute of the song approaches, the guitars become completely soaked with effects which cut through the haze

‘Bathed in Light’ was the B Side to one of the bands early singles ‘Powder’, which is also rathe lovely

Powder – Gengahr (2014, Transgressive Records)

The Best Stuff I Have Heard This Year #3

Poerty and rock music, do they mix? Well the evidence is not convincing. Some chumps out there will tell you that Lord Byron was the first person to combine poetry with the rockstar lifestyle. They would of course be wrong, Byron was a syphilis addled drug addict whose behaviour these days would perhaps be considered boorish or possibly linked to the Bullingdon Club.

Fast forward about 150 years (I have no idea when Byron died) and a band called Trampolene were for about ten minutes considered to be the future of rock because their singer recited poetry (that he had written) to the backdrop of riotously scratchy post punk. They were ok at best.

In 2020, an actual poet, well more than a poet – the Poet Laureate, Simon Armitage formed a band, a kind of post rock band called LYR, and they were signed before they’d even played a gig. The reason, they are amazing. Armitage delivers his poems, in his glorious Northern voices, which a piano and slow moving electronica sweeps along behind it. Their single ‘Never Good With Horses’ is both sad and beautiful at the same time.

Never Good With Horses – LYR (2020, Single, Mercury KX Records)

Bands with singers who spoke rather than sang were rather fashionable this year, with a who raft of them coming out of the woodwork. Dry Cleaning were perhaps the most successful, with Florence Shaw acting as a narrator rather than a singer on most of their tracks and it is all types of wonderful.

Scratchcard Lanyard – Dry Cleaning (2021, 4AD Records, Taken from ‘New Long Leg)’

Another act who are talking at us rather than singing at us is Self Esteem who earlier in the year released the fantastic ‘I Do This All The Time’. Lyrics about moments of social awkwardness and humiliation are slowly narrated over downtempo beat before bursting into a chorus that encourages women to stand tall and proud.

I Do This All The Time – Self Esteem (2021, Fiction Records, Taken from ‘Prioritise Pleasure’)

And finally, if spoken word is going to be 2022’s ‘Big Thing’ then the year will surely belong to this lot, because they are absolutely vital.

The Overload – Yard Act (2021, Zen FC Records)

And todays Christmas song is not very Christmassy – at all

No Christmas, Whilst I’m Talking – The Walkmen