Yard Act Are At Their Most Eclectic And Fun On Where’s My Utopia?

Mercury prize nominations, Elton John collaborations and US chat show TV appearances: 2022 was quite the year for Yard Act following the release of debut The Overload. Repeat the same process again for album two then, right? Not quite. On Where’s My Utopia? their creative boots are strapped on for an new exploration of eclectic terrain, ending up as a fun, reflective exercise full of quirky charm.

Where’s My Utopia? leaps far beyond their, occasionally, one-note and undercooked debut. And soon into the record, you’ll be questioning if we can even call them a post-punk band at all. Yard Act’s sophomore record encompasses a wide range of genres into one coherent sound: from disco to art-rock to baroque pop, and, surprisingly, they even flirt with hip hop-beats.

But fear not if you’re worried they’ve strayed too far from the band many grew to love in the first place. Where’s My Utopia? is fantastically held together by James Smith – the singer never allows proceedings to become too inauthentic, nor too pretentious. Take disco-inspired lead single ‘Dream Job’ and its irony-filled projection of positivity over Yard Act’s recent success: “Just look at my face! I’m on top of the world!” (safe to assume he isn’t…) and the endless list of superlatives within the chorus to sarcastically celebrate all the acclaim, “It’s ace / Top / Mint / Boss (That’s boss) / Class / Sweet / Deece / Not bad”.

They, again, poke fun at themselves on the similarly catchy (and cheeky) ‘We Make Hits’. With a wink in his eye, Smith describes Yard Act as “post-punks latest poster boys” while spelling out motivations for songwriting success. “If its not a hit, we were being ironic” declares the frontman as a final twist, departing the song on a fantastic line of self-parody. Elsewhere, ‘The Undertow’ nods in the direction of Britpop hero’s Pulp through theatrical strings and Smith’s dramatic vocals, both of which echo Different Class track ‘F.E.E.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E’.


Where’s My Utopia?‘s more varied sound can partially be explained by Gorillaz‘s Remi Kakaba Jr being on co-production duties. In fact, many of these songs sound like they belong on Damon Albarn’s successful pop project – in particular, the delightful art rock collaboration with Katy J Pearson on ‘When the Laughter Stops’, the weird and nostalgic ‘Fizzy Fish’ and the jump from sparkling synth pop to charged up punk on ‘Grifter’s Grief’.

The sharp rise to success isn’t the only change to have happened to James Smith over the past few years. The Yard Act singer has also become a father, allowing him to re-evaluate past experiences through the fresh lens of fatherhood. ‘Down By the Stream’ has the frontman apologise to a high school friend he bullied upon first meeting (“Jono, I never said sorry to your face, so I’ll say it in this song / I was young, but moreso, I was wrong”), while later contemplating the lingering damage of abuse into adulthood. And if he ever found out his son was involved in such behaviour? He’d “pin him up to the wall and scream in his face / until he’d never dare make another person feel sh**** at all”.

The singer is similarly reflective on the 7-minute ‘Blackpool Illuminations’, looking back to an accident suffered as child on a family holiday via a mock therapy session. There’s a sense the record was building up to this penultimate track and it more than delivers. The luscious strings and Sam Shipstone’s excellent guitar work represent the dramatic mood changes superbly: moving through childlike enthusiasm, comedy to panic, self-flagellation and landing on pride. Smith later juxtaposes his experience with a more recent visit to Blackpool with his son. He realises, for the first time, that the utopia he’s strived for through music is doomed. Instead, he reaches a new level of content as a family man and memorably uses dry wit to express such satisfaction: “I attained perfection with you / I attained perfection / So why the f*** was I wondering what w***ers would think of album two?”.

We just wanna have fun before we’re sunk” sings Smith on the abovementioned ‘We Make Hits’, because, at the end of the day, Yard Act are aware of their flavour of the month status and hold a pressing desire to make the most of it before the bubble bursts. Where’s My Utopia? is a hugely enjoyable, self aware record that, above all else, is playful and weird. The creative leap forward marks a giant departure from their debut and the risk pays off big time. Yard Act smash through all expectations on album number two and some.

HeadStuff Verdict: 9/10