Artists looking to create their sophomore release, that vital document that asserts they are no flash in the pan, would rarely be advised to follow the template which Yak visionary-in-chief Oli Burslem has executed in the near three years which have elapsed since their debut Alas Salvation. Scrapped sessions, borderline bankruptcy, itinerant to the point of kipping in the back of his car, Burslem could never be accused of not inserting his heart, soul and just about anything else he could muster into this collection. It is testament to his talent that he has created such a beautiful piece of chaos out of all the adversity.
‘It is testament to [Oli Burslem’s] talent that he has created such a beautiful piece of chaos out of all the adversity.’
Lead track Bellyache, already a single, encapsulates the mood of much of the album; a song that writhes sleazily from a pan pipe fanfare, via brass and an insistent chorus. Fried seduces with a gentle strummed intro before blowing the windows out as a rolling bassline and distorted lead riff smash into motion. “Youve just got to learn to fake it,” bellows Burslem; two chord choruses have rarely sounded so compelling. The sweeping guitar and organ arpeggios of the title track offer some temporary respite, albeit with a cranked up middle-eight, before Words Fail Me continues the psychedelic mood with uplifting chord progressions. It’s almost a crooner ballad, although Burslem unsettles the atmosphere with his talk of “empty gestures” and enquiries about “how do you sleep at night?” The denouement sounds like Memphis-era Primal Scream turned up a little higher than the amplifiers are supposed to go. Blinded By the Lies could have been a song written by Matt Bellamy for The Stooges, but then so many of the ideas on Pursuit of Momentary Happiness defy conventional description.
White Male Carnivore neatly leads off the second part of the album. In what is essentially a one-chord riff-led onslaught which could be Spacemen 3 on speed, Burslem rants against the worst aspects of what he admits is a description of himself. The imagery is iconoclastic; crumbling pillars, hearts of stone and glass houses. “He’s got the whole world in his hands,” yells Burslem, immersing himself in subversive irony. A double-time foot-to-the-floor gear shift takes the tune to its conclusion so purposefully that you can almost feel an erection poking into your abdomen. Linked by perfectly corralled melodic feedback Encore and Layin’ It On the Line bring a full stop to the thematic noise-madness; the former could be re-imagined as a fallen-idol Vegas residency signature tune, the vocal shapeshifting into a baritone reminiscent of a grimy and demented Richard Hawley. This House Has No Living Room, a collaboration with Jason Pierce, stands apart; a weaving and meandering waltz which builds in a style characteristic of the former Spaceman, resplendent with organ and discordant brass before tailing off into an unpredictable nurdling diminuendo, accompanied by birdsong.
Yak have left no stone unturned with this album. It is imbued with sincerity and good old-fashioned cojones. However tortuous a route taken to create it, you feel that Oli Burslem would endure it all again to reach this destination. It’s a wholly honest endeavour, detailed and strangely coherent despite what at times feels like a bewildering and trippy listen. The compositions have an arresting spontaneity to them; the detail has an organic quality, like each is being created on the spot and played for the first time.
‘Pursuit of Momentary Happiness is a masterpiece of conception and execution.’
Pursuit of Momentary Happiness is a masterpiece of conception and execution. Like a glass being smashed in reverse slo-mo; millions of shattered fragments fusing back together to a perfect shape, then held with a sturdy grasp. Method in the madness.
Words Iain Dalgleish.