Band of the month
After a year hiatus from producing any fresh material Yak are back with this autumn with two new singles ‘White Male Carnivore’ and ‘Bellyache’, and fans couldn’t say “alas salvation” quick enough. The London based trio caused a stir back in 2016 with a stream of live shows that’s rambunctiousness peaked moshers’ interests and their album produced by Pulp’s Steve Mackey which was just a real riot.
Their new tracks come as the first taster of what’s to look forward to from Yak, and while the band have announced that they are signing to Virgin EMI for their second album, their newest work is nothing but true to these boy’s well know grit and scuzz aesthetic mixed with a classic psychedelic nostalgia.
Despite being released a little over a month apart, at first listen the two songs sound like opposites. Kicking off with tribal drums layered by the faint chants from frontman Oli Burslem over top ‘White Male Carnivore’ floods your ears just as aggressively as the title suggests. Whereas their newest track ‘Bellyache’ takes a step back from relying on heavy guitars to immerse its listener and instead provides a trippier exploration of sound. However, what is an unmissable similarity between the two tracks is the intention behind them to be more than a song that you can passively consume. Rather both provide social commentary that seems to stem from the bands’ own lived experiences and their frustrations. This evidently isn’t such a wild thought as frontman Oli Burslem explained: ‘I was living in Tokyo, struggling to write and a friend advised me to write from my own point of view.’
‘White Male Carnivore’ is the track that really thrusts this idea into reality, as Burslem claimed his inspiration came from “my diet, my sex and my race – among other things. The three words which made me feel the most uncomfortable were white, male and carnivore. Everything currently seems reductive and polarising. This song reflects that.” With lyrics that say “you’re some kind of animal or just a white male carnivore” it’s difficult to avoid the threesome obvious rejection to the pillars that uphold societal norms in claiming that it’s all smoke and mirrors and demanding that they crumble.
Writing from their own perspective, Burslem’s lyrics present a perhaps not a hugely representative attack against the falsities of 21st century humanity. However, in being self-reflective they critique hegemonic masculine gender norms i.e. what it means to be the man: superior and emotionless. In doing so they question what it means to be a white male carnivore who, in contrast to expectation, feels everything and isn’t the uncrying animal that his physical appearance forecasts him to be. To do so the trio combine the violent hypermasculinity of A Clockwork Orange with a sharp ironic tongue that makes for tune that’s not only angry but at the same time ferociously vulnerable. And it is with this, that the track universally asks: what if who you are doesn’t conform to preconceived, polarised expectations based on sex, skin colour, or even dietary preferences – which would seem to encapsulate what it is to live under the regime of those neo-classic pillars they’re shouting about.
While it makes for a slightly different sound, their newest track ‘Bellyache’ still carries that same critical overtone of the consumer culture that relies on a power structure that always sees someone suffering at the bottom. With a pan-pipe start the song takes almost a surrealist angle which gives it that kaleidoscopic edge that you’d imagine from an acid rock band like The Seeds. Aided by the trippy visuals of the experimental music video that came with the release of the song, and echoing lyrics which swirl around groovy riffs, Yak quiz a capitalist culture where everyone seems to ask: is it for the many or for the few? The drowsiness of tracks almost has hallucinogenic essence encapsulates the slug that comes from socio-economic struggles of not being able to feed yourself while greedy bodies have got the cake and eat until they have a bellyache.
The song echoes just how tired this threesome are of these gluttonous bodies that have everything but still want more. However, lethargy doesn’t stop these guys instead the song makes a threat to the power structures that allows money to make money and works to give power to the underdog (cue a howl the from Burslem). Burslem claimed that much like the other track this too came from looking at their own lives: “I was living out the back of my £205 car, completely broke as I had put all the money we had from the label into the band. It really felt like the last piece of music we would ever make and that we had to put everything we had into it.” The song certainly embodies this notion and becomes a testimony to their ceaseless effort to create music that has meaning.
Both the tracks end in an epic climax that really drives home this idea and brings the two tracks together despite their stylistic differences. Both end with the sound of a sour taste in this trio’s mouths with one that reminds you that the white male carnivore has “the whole wide world in HIS hands” through eery-cult-like “ba ba ba’s” and one that leaves you with the piece of advice that “if you’re going for broke, just make sure you don’t choke”. At the songs’ core they work a wake-up call to anyone who is complicit with being limited to a rotting, polarised identity – a call to arms to get angry at the man, if you will. And if this isn’t what the tracks are then at the bare minimum we can all agree that Yak are back, and they’ve never sounded so good.
Thanks for the words to Aimee Williams-Maynard
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