My past position playing in bands sometimes gives me a privileged position to view bands and the business from a slightly different perspective and this is certainly the case with The Yalla Yallas. This is a band and with front man Rob Galloway, a versatile artist that I have seen develop from his very early days playing solo with a laptop, projector, guitar and a hell of a lot of passion to a versatile performer who understands his strengths but still has that same passion to stretch his own capabilities. This does not automatically mean that I am biased when it comes to reviewing this album however. I have not always liked the work that Rob has produced but what I have been able to observe is the development of an artist over that period and it has been as equally passionate, talented and fun as you can probably imagine.
Rob Galloway himself is a bit of a legend in the Leeds and West Yorkshire scene, not just for the records he has produced but his incredibly incendiary live performances; everything from stripping down to his underwear, jumping on stage with other bands, to blowing the joint apart but also just as much for living the dream. The passion that Rob has for music itself is legendary, this man breathes, lives and bleeds rock and roll. Ask anyone on the scene what the cries and ‘Rock and Roll’ mean and they will each be able to tell you a Rob Galloway story. Music needs characters like this, now more than ever where it easy to sit distanced from the scene behind a computer screen.
This career over the last 13 years or so has seen Rob, produce diverse records; from electronic odes to Leeds, to thoughtful and thought-provoking solo records to a skiffle punk band, but it is always The Yalla Yallas that he returns to and, in my opinion, produces his best work. It is that combination of having his best mate in the band and the incredible guitar work of Will Grinder. Will was the one guitarist we would happily have stolen away in all our time in music. If only he could have been prized away from The Yalla Yallas. I am glad we never tried and that The Yalla Yallas are still around to produce this, their third Long Player Medusa because this feels like the culmination of all that hard work over the last decade and a half and what they have produced is their definitive record to date. It’s brilliant, pure and simple. What it does extremely well is bring together all those elements, marry them side by side and give you just enough of a taster to never get bored and feel invigorated.
It is the stripped bare, raw emotional side of The Yalla Yallas that gets this record started and it is an inspired choice. It would be too easy to hit in a big punk pop number to blast into the record. Opening track “Mi Corazon Pt 1” is the opposite of that and instead almost forces you to take note and listen. Musically, it is a simple melody, played in a slow almost traditional gypsy folk swing beat. This subversive demand of attention then allows the excellent “Venus and the Horse” slip into your view and allows you to take the time to listen to the spoken word verse throughout. “Venus and the Horse” with its almost Sultans of Ping FC breathlessness to the verse before going into the catchy chorus, is a great song and in some ways a little out of the comfort zone of the band and as a result works well. I especially love the lead guitar to build up to the punk rock finale.
Having had the opportunity to listen to this album several times it is this marriage between the punk rock and rollers and the folky and mournful numbers and the equally important marriage between personal, introspective lyrics and more politically charged tracks that really changes this album from a good punk rock album to a great punk rock album. For me, this is possibly the band’s watershed. Everything they have been building to up until this point has been realized. The passion, the blood, sweat and tears, the readiness to push themselves into areas and beyond the boundaries you would expect.
Politically charged? – What I like about the delivery of the more political tracks on this album, is that there is personal outrage but Rob always welcomes you into the fold, it feels more like dialogue. There are four songs I would put into this category. “The Sound of the Kraken” is a catchy punk pop song and is a great example of this inclusiveness. Rob tells us this is the sound of you and me, the sound of democracy. The Yalla Yallas can write a catchy song, rhythmically it is steady, Will’s guitar really carries the songs and then add the knack to write a decent chorus and all the ingredients are there. “Asylum” is more direct in both its delivery and message, sound checking the politicians of our modern era but it is “Co-Exist” that I have most enjoyed. The message in “Co-Exist” is simple, we are all in this colour, religion, geography or any other indicators us humans like to distinguish ourselves with. I love the feel of the song as well. Interestingly it is the only song of the album I think sounds like another song which is good going to be fair. To me it sounds like The Star Spangles’ “Gonna Burn This House Down” (The Star Spangles were meant to be the new proto punk Strokes back in the early 00’s fact fans and toured the UK in support if Idlewild.)
Laying it all bare? – There are two tracks that really stand out for me which are obviously closely personal but cover a topic that everyone can relate (that all-inclusiveness again) and the two songs could not musically be more different but I love them both. On “Mentira” we are introduced to the tale of lost love, and how that can leave you feeling vulnerable, let down and perhaps gullible at the same time. A touching song, raw emotions laid bare. Musically this is a combination of piano and accordion and works supremely well. The other song is “County Court” which is an incredible blast of pop punk goodness and fun but lyrically it runs against its own grain as it talks of a marriage breakdown and ending up in the county court. It most definitely is one of those guilty pleasure moments. You find yourself swept up in the euphoria of the song, singing along and almost forgetting that this is a song about divorce and the messiness of the split.
It is clear to me that the music scene desperately needs bands like The Yalla Yallas and characters like Rob Galloway now more than ever. It is not easy to balance an album in such a way, the right balance between indignation, outright anger, internal musings, gentle maudlin moments and moments of pure punk joy. They have pitched this extremely well, capturing the spirit of punk both musically and lyrically but presenting in a way that does not demand you to agree but instead invites you to reflect; Medusa is an album that speaks out but is not outspoken. A subtle but incredible difference. Music may need The Yalla Yallas but you need Medusa. Album of the year so far for me.
THE YALLA YALLAS SUMMER TOUR DATES
- 7/7 – BAD APPLES, LEEDS, UK (ALBUM LAUNCH)
- 14/7 – ROCK XXL FEST, BEERSE, BELGIUM
- 15/7 – HUIZE SPOORLOOS, EMMEN, THE NETHERLANDS
- 16/7 – KAFE BIJSTAND, NIJMEGEN, THE NETHERLANDS
- 18/7 – ‘T LANDHUIS, GENT, BELGIUM
- 19/7 – ADM, AMSTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS
- 20/7 – DE GENIEPEGEN DRAUK, AALST, BELGIUM
- 21/7 – KNOFLOOK, DEN BOSCH, THE NETHERLANDS
- 22/7 – BIRTHDAY FEST, ZOERSEL, BELGIUM
- 1/8 – BRUDENELL SOCIAL CLUB, LEEDS, UK
- 26/8 – MAGUIRE’S PIZZA BAR, LIVERPOOL, UK
Medusa is out now