Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Album Review: Yak - Pursuit of Momentary Happiness

Yak
Pursuit of Momentary Happiness
*** out of *****

The second full length release from the English trio Yak is a mashed up mix of experimental rockers which collide in angular fashions. The group, singer-guitarist Oliver Henry Burslem, bassist Vincent Davies and drummer Elliot Rawson have crafted an engaging mix of heavy oddball rock as sounds and stories whirl around the speakers. 

The band can get delicate or slam clumsily, and this is not your typical power trio rock and roll, the album incorporates layers of sounds, from huge horns to digital keyboards; everything is in play for this future looking studio release. This is an album whose cover art, a painting of mixing strong line colors, running over each other perfectly captures the tunes contained within.

Opening with a stomp/flute combo, the hip swaying retro funky rock of "Bellyache" delivers vocals which don't fit in stanza's proving things will not digested easily while "Fried" begins as acoustic strum session before a full tilt glam rock influenced effort takes root. The title track finds band leader Burslem passionately pleading "I'm tired/I just wanna feel good", after declaring:
Do you remember when we said it would be easier if
Nobody felt a thing
No love, no loss, nothing
If nobody felt any pain
But that just ain't livin'
There is a poetic sense to Burslem's madness but the pieces don't always fit snugly together as an overall album. The screeching feedback laden "Blinded By The Lies" is heavy metallic blast, literally screaming "kick him in the face", before unceremoniously jarringly seguing into "Interlude" a peaceful instrumental number. 

The album ends with two spaced numbers, the excellently grooving languid "Layin' It On The Line" and the freak folk of "This House Has No Living Room", both of which are cool rides, but would have worked better sequenced earlier on the album.    

The closest comparison for those new to Yak would be the Arctic Monkeys especially as that band continues to evolve and experiment. The song "Pay Off Vs The Struggle" begins with a dance laden electro beat and instantly recalls the Monkeys during their Favourite Worst Nightmare era, while the already mentioned title track, the smooth "Encore" or "Words Fail Me" is more reminiscent of their recent offerings; warped modern day power ballads, aggression mixing with lounge tendencies. 

Yak is definitely living in the moment though as the first single "White Male Carnivore" takes on the current cultural climate. It is growling and scratching with beefy guitars all the time a never ending over driven bass pulse pushes the track into almost annoying territory before a hardcore slamming ending over the refrain "He's got the whole world in his hands/he has us in his hands".

The overall effects of Pursuit of Momentary Happiness is scattered messy affair, but one that somehow winds up successful after it's ride is over. It is a neat trick on an album that doesn't flow as an overall effort but hits varied targets with bulls-eye precision. Hard to pin down, Yak wants it that way as the careen into forward with their first Third Man Records release.
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