Yard Act at Troxy
Yard Act are a four-piece indie rock/post-punk band from Leeds, in the kind of archly political but loving vibe of Fontaines DC, Wet Leg and Idles. Their 2022 debut album, The Overload, was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize and they have been highly lauded by other serious music experts like the NME and the BBC’s Sound of… poll.
The palatial Troxy is the venue for Yard Act’s London dates. As one approaches Limehouse on the DLR, the back of the building is visible, helpfully emblazoned with the name so it’s clear where to go when coming out of the station. Opened in 1933, it’s all art deco splendour, fountain-like mouldings cascading down walls of aqua and lilac. The original-looking carpet continues the motif; on the upper level, ravishing portraits of Veronica Lake swoon over the walls and glamorous green booth seating, and white tables border the upper circle overlooking the stage. It’s quite a place.
The stage is dressed with mannequins wearing trench coats, presumably in reference to Yard Act’s new single The Trench Coat Museum. The gig starts with an audio sample suggesting that we “should listen to everyone, even the dull and the ignorant, for they too have their story to tell” – which is indicative of the egalitarian attitude of the band. As soon as lead singer James Smith starts talking to the crowd, the show is fascinating. He has an ease that makes delivering complex lyrics dense with detail natural, a bit like Jarvis Cocker or Mark E Smith or John Cooper Clarke. The first song is Rich, a staccato curio with crowd participation on the repeating “rich!”. It is immediately engaging and easily indicates they are a band with a singularity of vision that belies a so far short career.
The songs are packed with precise lyrics, arresting in the mix of everyday and deepening into surreality, like in Tall Poppies: “But there, somewhere, floating in the ether / So many of us just crabs in a barrel / With no feasible means to escape the inevitable cull”. Smith is something of a philosopher in his outlook, and he gently teases the crowd, raising a toast to the coronation and then saying: “I was only messing. To us, the people!”
New material, including Petroleum and Trench Coat Museum, proves the band can be just as charismatic as they are on wordy breakthrough single The Overload and hypnotic state-of-the-nation vignette 100% Endurance. The songs require attention as they are so detailed, but the music is also rewarding, each member (Ryan Needham on bass, Sam Shjipstone on guitar, and Jay Russell on drums) adding to the confident, present-day The Fall-like sound. At one point Smith addresses the crowd with typical, lightly worn philosophy and says, “Success is being safe in the moment and the moment is all there is.” It seems to sum up the band well: cheerfully insightful anti-capitalists.
Photos: Virginie Viche
For further information and future events visit Yard Act’s website here.
Watch the video for the single Rich here: