After the release of Yak’s Alas Salvation, a record brimming with Jack White-esque riffs and frontman Oli Burslem’s distinctive howls, which we described as “The best British debut for quite sometime”, the band travelled to Australia to swiftly follow-up the record with Pond’s Jay Watson. It didn’t work out, however, and with a lot of partying had and not a lot of recording done, Burslem was stuck in Australia having spent his album budget. Thankfully, this is the start of a journey with a happy ending, which saw Burslem make his way back to the UK, resulting in the creation of their second record, Pursuit of Momentary Happiness; an at times riotous, but wholly more interesting, record than its predecessor.
Recorded with Spiritualized’s Jason Pierce, and released under new label Virgin EMI, while Burslem was living in a van, the record has an ‘all or nothing’ feel to it instantly with a vital, to-the-point brand of rock and roll. Bizarrely, with opening track ‘Bellyache’, in particular, as well as much of the trio’s sophomore release, that Pond influence is evident throughout with its beautiful production and stuttered vocal delivery. With a much less garage-rock-infused sound, with heavier psychedelic elements no doubt thanks to Jason Pierce, it’s a much more versatile and explorative record than Alas Salvation.
Yet, there are still examples of that balls-to-the-wall attitude that have made their live shows reach near-legendary status. ‘Blinded By The Lies’ is a screeching burst of energy that clocks in at just under two minutes and makes use of new bassists Vinny Davies’ (of Hidden Charms fame) harmonic expertise, while lead single ‘White Male Carnivore’ is iconically Yak with one of the finest basslines the band have produced. Wild and frenetic, with Burslem always at the forefront of the action, it’s an infectiously dirty rock and roll number that points its grubby finger at toxic masculinity.
Pursuit of Momentary Happiness is at its best when it broadens its scope, however, and the band show a lighter side. No longer just a sleazy rock and roll outfit, ‘Encore’ is a surprisingly breezy number that evokes a hot American 50s summer with a sinister climax, while ‘Layin’ It On The Line’ sounds like a more menacing take on The Stone Roses’ baggy aesthetic. Importantly, for a second album, Yak have evolved and Pursuit of Momentary Happiness is a far more tactile and developed listen as a result. With enough of the sullied rock that made them such an exciting prospect in the first place, alongside an added psychedelic bagginess that evokes the people they’ve worked with, Pursuit of Momentary Happiness has manifested a whole new side to the band. A quite brilliant second album, it looks like Yak’s tumultuous times as a band are over, in the studio at least.