Yard Act, from Leeds, are another new band that I’ve got all excited about in 2022.

James Smith (vocals), Ryan Needham (bass), Sam Shjipstone (guitar) and Jay Russell (drums) haven’t quite come from nowhere as they’ve all been in other bands previously.  But there’s something genuinely superb about their new collective which has made their debut album, The Overload, released back in January, as one of my most played records in the first half of 2022.

Most critics focus on Smith’s lyrics and delivery, which are full of humour and storytelling, often delivered in a spoken-style, covering a wide range of social and political issues from a left-wing perspective, but the band are incredibly tight and talented, which no doubt stems, at least in part, from the fact they aren’t new kids on the block.

There were a number of self-released EPs released in 2020 and 2021, the vinyl versions of which now go for eye-watering sums on the second-hand market.  Indeed, the band remain something of a DIY outfit as the debut album came out on their own ZEN F.C. imprint, but via a partnership with Island Records.

Most of the tracks have had some sort of release as a single, in digital form, with a number of wonderfully surreal promo videos featuring a cast of characters who pop up time and time again.   The final single, 100% Endurance, is the song which closes that album and its video features a wonderful turn from the actor David Thewliss.  YouTube can be your friend for all said videos.

The longest track on the album, however, was never released as a single.  I think it makes for a wonderful short story.

He was the most handsome in a class of twenty-two
And he knew it early on so his confidence kept growing
By thirteen he had been with every girl deemed worth it
To be with in the village, two years either side of his birthday
He played football, boy, could he play
He played every single day and he still does
A scout from Crewe Alexandra came to watch him once
And they said that they were gonna be in touch

He was the captain of the team without ever asking to be
And without ever being told, that counts for a lot, still, believe it or not
Lo and behold, everyone fell in line behind the hair on his legs and hair on his lip
He was the-

He could smoke ten a day and still run faster
Than that whippet that could lap the racetrack rabbit
He could dabble in the snow, rubbing shoulders with the rabble
And still never ever touch upon a habit
At age sixteen, he made his choice to stay
And got a job selling houses in the village
Which by now had become such a desirable place to settle down
It was classed not as a village, but instead as a small town
(On the sunny, sunny side of the borough)
(You get two brown bins)

Fortunately, despite the influx of newcomers including, for the first time
A genuine authentic Italian restaurant run by a family of fantastic old school Neapolitans
He was still the best at football, and a most handsome man
Taking solace in that fact as his little world continued to expand

By the time he was twenty, he’d now been with all the girls deemed worth it in the village
Five years either side of his birthday
But it was time to settle down and no kiss had ever felt so electric
As the first he’d ever felt all those years ago
Though she had never strayed far, hemmed in by his shadow
The torches lining the path of her own dreams had been growing dimmer by the day and so
Faster than a dying star, she cashed in her chips and checked out
Settled for him and subsequently threw all her own ambitions away

A promotion followed, a mortgage, a marriage
A dog and children, a loft conversion
A dead dog, and a second home on the Costa del Sol
In the hopes of stoking the coals of two long-lost souls
Which comes first, counselling or keys in the bowl?
Put his own mother in a home
Got made redundant twice, never once was he on the dole

Light head, black spots on his vision, room spinning
Clutching the curtain waving from the window, they thought he was grinning
He was grimacing, begging them to notice him, twitching, notice no one is helping him
The grandkids waving through the rear windshield
As the big electric gate draws a line in between them
A fine, fine line between benign and malignant
So get yourself checked, book yourself an appointment
So get yourself checked, book yourself an appointment
So get yourself checked, book yourself an appointment
So get yourself checked, book yourself

The whole village and most of the town came out to mourn his end
A full house, he would’ve been so proud knowing that no one said a bad word about him aloud
He wasn’t perfect, but he was my friend
He wasn’t perfect, but he was one of us
He was one of us

A plaque bears his full name on a bench by the water’s edge
The dates he came and went
And a quote about life and death from a song he’d never heard
‘Cause he wasn’t too fond of long songs with lots of words
If I were him, I’d have never left the village either
But I did, and I know full well
That there are more handsome men and better footballers out there in Greater Manchester
They would’ve cut him down to size if they could’ve, but what good would that do?
He bloomed and he grew and grew, and still he was doomed
Same as me, same as you
Same as everyone I ever knew
You, sometimes still, I think about you
Out there, somewhere, floating in the ether
Born dyed in the wool, never knowing of a belly half full
So many of us just crabs in a barrel
With no feasible means to escape the inevitable cull
There are those that grow thick skins quick for the sake of their sins
And the savvy folk that just keep their mouths shut and take it all on the chin
We collide with each other, we submit, and we bare our teeth
Catch fish using giant metal ships and scream with laughter
At 4AM staggering home down moonlit country lanes
We cry because children are dying across the sea and there is nothing we can do about it
Whilst we benefit from the bombs dropped which we had no part in building
We are sorry, truly we are sorry, we are just trying to get by too

mp3: Yard Act – Tall Poppies


4 thoughts on “SOME SONGS MAKE GREAT SHORT STORIES (Chapter 59)

  1. Steve Lamacq constantly raved about Yard Act so, as is my way, I deliberately avoided them, not wanting to get drawn in on they hype. But the fact is, having relented, I reckon they’ve made the best debut album of the year (so far). The new version of 100% Endurance (which features flippin’ Elton John!) is brilliant and hopefully marks the direction they’ll take for the next record. Definitely a band to watch.

  2. Reminds me of a lot of music, all of it good. I especially like what the guitar is doing.

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