Since releasing their first single ‘The Trapper’s Pelts’ a little over three years ago, Yard Act have been on a non-stop celebratory victory lap. Their brilliant debut album The Overload reached Number Two in the Official Album Charts and was shortlisted for the Mercury Prize; snotty breakout hit ‘Fixer Upper’ has been a mainstay of BBC Radio 6; and even Elton John got involved with an orchestral reworking of ‘100% Endurance’.
The group have become one of the most thrilling guitar bands around, and at their second Troxy show on Friday, showed why. Running on pure excitement, infectious anthems like ‘Dead Horse’ were played at double speed while a twitching ‘Dark Days’ was delivered with enormity. The sweeping post-punk muscle of ‘Payday’ and their debut album’s titular track ‘The Overload’ caused joyous pandemonium in the crowd. Despite not playing their biggest hit, ‘Fixer Upper’, the gig never felt lacking.
Yard Act have always been the first to see the funny side of their ever-increasing success. Next week, the band are set to take over Leeds’ Brudenell Social Club for a five-night residency, which will include support from comedians such as Harry Hill, Nish Kumar and Rose Matafeo. At Troxy, the band performed in front of a neon sign that read “100% irrelevant”, with vocalist James Smith introducing the band as the “slightly bloated and out-of-shape, reigning champs” before the hammering ‘Rich’.
At one point, Smith encouraged the crowd to “boo the King” and later says that Yard Act playing London over the coronation weekend is almost “too easy” before dedicating a song to the “normies” in the audience. “We’re all just trying to have a good time despite the crushing realness,” he adds.
There’s more to Yard Act than angular guitars and sarcastic social commentary, though. This gig let them explore the more experimental side of The Overload, and they relished the opportunity to get weird.
An extended run-through of rumbling rock epic ‘Tall Poppies’ starts with Smith singing about mundane small-town life but ends with existential reassurance, plenty of detours and snarling riffs. Their angsty, anti-capitalist debut single ‘The Trapper’s Pelts’, meanwhile, is shown to have evolved into something jubilant over the years, without losing any of its bite.
Elsewhere, the groove-driven ‘Pour Another’ is a fiery, feel-good communal anthem that knows the world is on fire while the twinkling ‘100% Endurance’ mines optimism from these trying times. “You gotta stay true to what you believe, and I really, really believe that life is alright,” Smith tells the crowd. “It’s worth pushing on and getting through it for moments like the one we’re all sharing right now. We’re honoured to be able to do this. I hope you’re doing alright, and if you’re not: push on.”
The band may be here to say farewell to The Overload, but they can’t help but give fans a glimpse of the future. New song ‘Petroleum’ pulls from the more uptempo end of Britpop via smirking guitar riffs and electronic wig-outs that flirt with carnage; the outrageous ‘Trench Coat Museum’, meanwhile, sees the group channelling dance-rock groups like Daft Punk or The Chemical Brothers with a fierce confidence.
Both tracks see the band fearlessly heading away from the urgent post-punk songs that first found them an audience, but the reaction is one of chaotic euphoria. As Smith says onstage, “this feels familiar but new”. Bring on whatever comes next.