**** (4/5 stars)
The last time I saw Yak was at the Moth Club in Hackney (it was brilliant!). Back then they had only released a few singles, but they had already established themselves as one of the most exciting live bands in the UK music scene. I say live band because their adrenalized debut album, Alas Salvation, is not an album you would listen to on a Sunday evening with a glass of red wine. Like many punk bands, their music is communal, made for being played live at places like the Dingwalls – a small venue, full of people (young and old), surging energy and sweaty limbs.
With their name literally up in lights at the back of the stage, Yak began their set with a synth whirl of sound, which fell into the rowdy melody of ‘Harbour the Feeling’. A song with a contagiously catchy chorus that had the audience chanting. Every one of Yak’s songs had a stomping bass line, take ‘Victorious’, and a catchy riff, like ‘Take it’, that boiled up into a crescendo of psychedelic rock euphoria. Of course, all of this is made better with the crowd, who in a frenzy formed a whirlpool of bodies. Enter if you dare.
However, Yak are not just a band whose music is uncontrollably intoxicating. The band’s performance really reinforced the music’s blaze. Their dynamics on the stage were brilliantly thought out, even though at the time, it seemed completely erratic. The underlying rhythm section of Elliot Rawson (on drums) and Andy Jones (on bass) glued it all together. I was pleased to see that not all their songs were punk uproars, but had light as well as shade. With the song ‘Smile’, frontman Oli Burslem fluctuated from jittery whispers to full on howls, while viciously strumming at his guitar. The audience were unsure whether to stare in awe or to leap in hysteria. A wave of energy release and a crash of bodies ensued – much to the delight of Burslem who chucked himself into the sea of arms. Burslem (who is probably tired of his comparison to Mick Jagger) showed himself to be a truly natural performer.
During some points in the set, their songs sometimes went off on a tangent of noise, that was deafeningly loud and was so unconventional that it was hard to comprehend it – think The Velvet Underground mixed with The Hives. Yet, at this point, I was already lost in the swelling crowd and my eyes were too preoccupied with Burslem, who was hanging from the ceiling, that it didn’t bother me.
At the end of the gig, everyone was eager for an encore. It didn’t happen. Yak are a band that give it all in a dizzy, unstoppable fashion. They refuse to be predictable or clichéd. Yeah, I suppose encores are for losers then (or at least in their opinion they are).
Catch Yak on their UK tour at Scala on the 27th October – you will get tinnitus but it will be worth it.