Yard Act – “When The Laughter Stops” (Feat. Katy J Pearson & David Thewlis)
Next month, the fast-expanding Leeds post-punk band Yard Act will release Where’s My Utopia?, their much-anticipated sophomore album. We’ve already posted the early singles “Dream Job,” “Petroleum,” and “We Make Hits.” Today, Yard Act have followed those singles with “When The Laughter Stops,” a new collaboration with the Bristol singer-songwriter Katy J Pearson. It’s a pretty inspired pairing.
“When The Laughter Stops” has the wordy churn of Yard Act’s other music, but it’s also got a real sense of melodic sparkle. The chorus is catchy, and the locked-in rhythm section evokes late-’90s French Touch house and early-’00s dance-punk. You could conceivably play this track in a club without clearing the floor. Director James Slater’s video is pretty cartoonish, and it’s got Katy J Pearson getting thrown into jail, where all the Yard Act guys are already locked up. They’re all dressed up as clowns. Both song and video also feature the great British actor David Thewlis, who recites Shakespeare and drips gravitas everywhere.
Here’s what Yard Act’s James Smith says about the track:
The sentiment of the lyrics gets to the heart of Where’s My Utopia? almost immediately and finds the cynicism first spawned from the same circumstance I found myself in during “Dream Job,” now giving way to a more genuine sliver of misery. Fortunately — spoiler alert — I’ve managed to find a way out of this pit, for the time being.
Whilst the lyrics came quick, musically it went through the wringer. As is often the case when Ryan presents a bass line, harmonically it’s pretty ambiguous, and we all hear things differently. I was hearing the song in a pretty bluesy, minor key, whilst Sam [guitarist] heard a very saccharine and sweet major key tune. The song pedalled back and forth; we talked about “Lovefool” by the Cardigans quite a lot if I remember correctly. During a recording session in Kettering with Russ Russell at Parlour Studios in December 2022, I was fucking about on a Roland Juno with the arpeggiator whirring away over the end. Ryan flipped the rate so it went half time, and all of a sudden the eeriness of the track made sense; it sounded like some John Carpenter doomsday clock countdown or something. Sam reworked the guitars to sound like “High Voltage” by Electric Six, and we stripped away the funkier percussion and made the rhythm more aggressive, like “Seven Nation Army.” Katy came to meet us at Metropolis in London to dub the chorus vocals, and it gave the whole track a huge lift I’ll never have the voice for. She’s fantastic. I asked David Thewlis to recite Macbeth over the end for obvious reasons. The results speak for themselves!
UPDATE: The video has disappeared, but here’s the song:
Where’s My Utopia? is out 3/1 on Republic Records.