Over the course of rock n roll’s history, the niche archetype of a ‘rock n’ roll trio’ has marveled musicians, critics and fans alike.
Throughout the decades, three people working within the holy trinity set-up of guitar, bass and drums have created exciting and dynamic work despite the confines of their personnel approach. The Jimi Hendrix Experience could explode just as hard as The Who, and Rush’s manic musicianship has never left a listener wanting more. Nirvana and The Police share the same basic tools, but each use different materials and techniques to craft something different.
Wolverhampton’s restless trio, Yak, are definitely something different.
A year after forming, they caught the ear of fellow no frills rock n’ roller Jack White with their merciless, unrelenting noise rock. Months of quickly building hype has led to ‘Alas Salvation‘ – one of the most intriguing, loud and energetic debuts of the year.
The first three tracks are a distinct trifecta of brutally played rock that blends elements of psychedelia and garage. Opener ‘Victorious (National Anthem)’ squeals with boxer punches of feedback and gravity slamming crashes in the chorus. The compactly crafted ‘Hungry Heart’ doesn’t starve the ear for hooks, Andy Jones’ walking, pulsating bassline readily builds and bursts as Oliver Henry Burslem sneeringly proclaims that “this hungry heart is beating again, this hungry heart never knows when to stop.” And on the punk poetry of ‘Use Somebody’, Elliot Rawson’s jumpy drum rhythms provide the gas for Burslem’s Deep Purple-eqsue highway ripping, guitar fireworks.
The pace of the record shifts on ‘(Interlude I)’ as organs and twinkling pianos peer from the swirling loop of guitar feedback. The atmospheric aura, and Burslem’s mumbled radio transmission, come straight from the Jason Pierce school of space rock as an acoustic guitar begins to strum leading into the country-tinged ballad ‘Roll Another‘.
Credit to the producer – Pulp’s Steve Mackey – for marking a shift in tone within sequencing of the record. The twaggy tremolo guitars give us glimpses at the gentler nature of the group, while the crescendo ending displays restrained and well-timed musicianship that is sure to serve them well on their future releases. Burslem’s vocal delivery is uncannily similar to Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s Robert Levon Been; aching and strung out as it sneers through a musky bluesy bar room.
‘Curtain Twitcher’ re-establishes the band’s signature frantic, oft-kilter nature as Burslem’s electrifyingly sloppy vocal carries the track with an admirable vigor, however the following hypnotic ‘Take It’ sees the trio coiling back into unpredictability as Rawson’s finesse drumming impels this middling track.
The back half of the record starts strong as lead single ‘Habour The Feeling’ blitzes though a melodic and vicious avalanche of screeching guitar feedback. Its pendulum swinging swaggering rhythm is a rumbling garage thump that encompasses and ultimately envelops the listener. ‘(Interlude II)’ and the title-track remain vital taste cleansers as the former shimmers and the latter crushes, while closer ‘Please Don’t Wait For Me‘ sways and slides underneath a hazy waltz before building and crashing and resurfacing as a toe-tapping country-tinged ballad.
‘Alas Salvation’ thrives off the kinetic pandemonium of its performers, but it’s a well sequenced and surprisingly mature work for such a young act. Yak’s sound is remarkably fully formed; their ethos is punk, their execution is part hung-over blues, part barbaric noise rock.
They’ve cut through the noise on their debut album by crafting memorable, ferocious hooks that hark back to various eras and scenes in rock n’ roll whilst remaining riveting in their own right.