If you’re already in the know about London-based rock trio Yak, it will almost certainly be because of their gut-churning live shows. During their anarchic noiseathons they used to throw instruments crowdwards. For a recent tour with The Last Shadow Puppets they cut down on the physical missiles, but that sense of danger still hangs heavy over their nuclear debut, ‘Alas Salvation’.
Opener ‘Victorious (National Anthem)’ is all anyone needs to get excited about Yak: an earth-shaking and punky pastiche of ‘Rule Britannia’. “No two-up, two-down, no picket fence,” frontman Oli Burslem yells, “What you’re sick? Tough sh*t, you’ll miss the rent”. In the ensuing battle between Andy Jones’ super-sludgy bass and Burslem’s squealing guitar, bass wins, as it tends to for the rest of these 40 minutes. Yak will make your subwoofer happy.
Each track seeps subtly into the next, flowing from brutalist psych (debut single, ‘Hungry Heart’) to off-kilter, one-minute teasers (‘Alas Salvation’) and Spaghetti-Western seduction (‘Smile’). ‘No’, from the EP they released through Jack White’s Third Man Records last year, added to their reputation as repetitive lyricists – its chorus was simply “No” – and although that quality is still present, they mix it up more here. The title track’s minimal lyrics, especially, are curiously tantalising: “Gilded lily, nest of vipers / never ever did invite us”.
Under Pulp bassist Steve Mackey’s steady production – past clients include M.I.A., Florence and Palma Violets – ‘Alas Salvation’ wears its illustrious influences casually. Burslem’s heavy lip, shoulder-length barnet and big eyes make him look like a young Mick Jagger, and on more slackly sung tracks like ‘Roll Another’, he doesn’t fight to distance himself from that comparison. But then something like ‘Doo Wah’’s gravelly apathy will come along, dragging The Strokes’ Julian Casablancas behind it with a dour “How long does this carry on?” There’s plenty more rock’n’roll spirits where they came from: a White Stripes here, a Velvet Underground there.
But they never haunt this album. Every so often a new band will arrive clamouring that guitar music isn’t dead, as if they’re mid-CPR. Yak have crash-landed clutching its still-beating heart, wearing an irrepressible grin.
- Record label: Octopus Electrical
- Release date: 13 May, 2016