Listen: Yard Act Return with New Single ‘The Trench Coat Museum’

Yard Act were one of the breakout bands of the pandemic. Despite being stonewalls of the Leeds scene in one shape or another for years, the isolation of 2020 was the perfect stage for James Smith’s witty lyrics dripping with cynicism to capture the absurdity of the time; blending with Ryan Needham’s basslines into their unapologetically post-punk sound, they grabbed the ears of the public as this genre was soaring towards its peak. 

Each of their 4 singles across 2020 & 2021 grew their fanbase so that they emerged into the returning live music scene with a ready-made set of devoted fans singing (or speaking) all of the lyrics back at the band. As they tried to settle into their own skin as a band in front of these oven-ready crowds, the constant was Smith’s trenchcoat. He was never seen on stage or in any promo photos without it. As the band’s focal point in so many ways, Smith’s look became synonymous with Yard Act.

Having always been self-aware it seems fitting that hanging up the trenchcoat, both metaphorically and physically, should be how Yard Act move from album one to album two. This comes in the form of a new single ‘The Trenchcoat Museum’; an epic ode to shedding this skin. 

Speaking in a recent NME interview, Smith said: “I was ready to step away from that because I didn’t want to be trapped by it. We have a lot more to give than we’ve given so far”.

Lyrically, Smith’s famous wit is on show throughout the track and the self-referential theme is present from the word go: “Next up we have James Smith from the once-popular band Yard Act. Despite their swift ascent in the music world, Yard Act were rightly dismissed as a flash-in-the-pan bunch of sellouts. Whereabouts currently unknown.” A reference to the (admittedly small) backlash that came to their campaign to try and take their debut album to number one in its first week of release. The narrative throughout the 8-minute epic sees Smith reaching acceptance that all of these opinions are nonsense in the grand scheme of things and that it was just his ego reacting. 

The more time you have to sit with the lyricism in ‘The Trenchcoat Museum’, the better it becomes. To be both genuinely hilarious and work through some very tough life lessons might be Smith’s best piece of writing to date. He is clearly not a flash-in-the-pan. 

In the same NME interview, Smith also indicated that this new single will be a stand-alone release, “an advert or a trailer for album two”. Despite the focus on the lyrics and subject matter, it sounds like a showcase of the new Yard Act sound. 

It shows an evolution from the classic post-punk guitar sound into indie-dancefloor heroes. It’s dripping with LCD Soundsystem influences and lands closest to the sound of Yorkshire compatriots Working Mens Club. It’s a welcome development and has lit a flame of excitement for album 2. 

Despite all of the talk in this review, and I’m sure across the music press, about the proverbial trenchcoat, what this single needs to be remembered for is Yard Act as a band moving into their next phase. They are not merely a vehicle for their frontman to voice his views on life. They’re an outfit with an incredible sound that they can take in whatever direction they want based on this evidence.

Photo by Jamie MacMillan

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