Everyone knows Graham. He’s the father-in-law who says women belong at home, the uncle who lies about how the back door was always left open when he was a kid, the workmate that starts every conversation with “I’m not racist, but..”
Graham – now climbing up the property ladder to stare through your window – found himself immortalised in Yard Act’s Fixer Upper, a post punk/funk crackler that drips with snark and laugh out loud surrealism. Singer James Smith delivers it as if telling the story later in a bar, gleefully extracting every last ounce of the encounter’s situational awkwardness in a thick, deadpan provincial brogue. All these things considered, it was therefore impossible not to declare Fixer Upper one of the best songs of 2020.
Based in Leeds, Smith was formerly a member of the more stately Post War Glamour Girls, whilst bassist Ryan Needham played in one of the city’s other indie mainstays Menace Beach. The two had been promising each other they’d collaborate for years, but it was only when the latter moved into the former’s spare room that Yard Act began to take shape, bolstered later by the recruitment of drummer George Townend and guitarist Sam Shipstone from another local outfit Treeboy & Arc.
Ready to go then (Unnecessary Exclamation Mark) ! – but of course, not quite. Three gigs in and with the national media already taking notes, the pandemic threatened to stall their momentum. Singles three (Peanuts) and four (Dark Days, just released) have followed, but for the quartet being stuck indoors meant that despite having 50-60 demos and a lorry load of goodwill behind them, the saucepan had to be turned down.
Opportunities to see since – apart from a suitably low key bedroom set played during last year’s Homeschool Fest – have obviously been limited, up until a recent show produced by The state51 Conspiracy which also featured deep tan and Sinead O’Brien. At last then, we had Yard Act in the sort of flesh.
Like a cross between John Cooper Clarke and a prime Andy Gill, as we go further down each rabbit hole Smith gradually unravels too, the matter of factness of the songs dissolving into candid theatre. By the end of the climactic Peanuts with its deathly spoken word interlude and tongue-in-cheek urban horror, you vow to never end up in the kitchen at parties with this sort of stranger again.
On the horizon for Yard Act is a debut album, now in the making and which promises to be a thumping death disco soundtrack to all our shared neuroses. As for Graham, he doesn’t listen to any of that trendy student shite, give him The Pretenders any day.
Listen to Yard Act’s ‘Dark Days’.