Getting in on the Yard Act

English band Yard Act are from Leeds, in the Northern county of Yorkshire and, like other bands from that region (Housemartins/Beautiful South, Pulp), they follow a proud tradition of telling stories of the working class, of socioeconomic injustices, of life in the north, of the dangers of rampant capitalism.

The beauty of the band, much like those aforementioned groups, is the authenticity, the biting humor, and the celebration of Northern English life. There's no pretense, and the showmanship is reminiscent of classic English clubland. Brown suits, suspenders, and alarming dancing. Frankly, it's a joy to behold.

But if the vibe is familiar, the sound is very fresh. Post-punk and Brit-pop and grime and disco all merge into a thrilling, wonderfully messy sound that is bathed in infectious melodies and orgiastic beats.

Sam Shipstone's guitar work is off-beat, eclectic and mildly kooky, though deeply skilled and wildly intuitive. The rhythm section of Ryan Needham and Jay Russell comes from left field when necessary but is remarkably solid too. The backing singers are fun, and the keyboardist offers valuable flourishes.

And then there's frontman James Smith, a skinny poet in a large suit. He's part Dr. John Cooper Clarke, part Oscar Wilde, part David Byrne. If all/any of those people had been from Yorkshire. He's brash, charismatic, and quite brilliant.

The songs are wonderful too. "Dream Job," "A Vineyard for the North" and "Payday" paint vivid pictures, not pulling punches but balancing hope with melancholy.

"The Overload" is, on the surface, a chirpy singalong, but you don't have to dig too deep before uncovering lines such as "Fuck me, how am I supposed to cope? In the age of the gentrified savage, there's no hope."

Bands don't get much more English than Yard Act, in all of the best ways. Their embrace of multiculture, their blend of world genres, their unflinching view of their home -- it's what makes Britain Great. That America is embracing them too is heartwarming.