Two years ago, I reviewed The Yalla Yallas third album Medusa and described it as their watershed moment. Everything in their 10-year history at that point had led up to this album but the path leading away was not as clear. The band seemed to have followed that path as far as they could, singer Rob Galloway seemed exhausted and part of the band seemed to have just drifted away. Everything pointed to this being the last Yalla Yallas album for some time. I fully expected a further Rob Galloway solo record to appear but then everything seemed to change one night in Blackpool following their triumphant Rebellion appearance; transcribed into a real life song on this record Blackpool (“Feeling So Alive”) where the duelling chorus of Galloway and Barbara Pugliese captures that feeling of being reenergised in a perfect 3 minute pop song.
The Outsiders is simply the record that The Yalla Yallas had to make if they didn’t want to drift into irrelevant pastiche punk which is what they have never been. This is a band with big passion, big ideas, opinions, heart and an appreciation of musical history, to have simply rewritten the songbook would have been a travesty and would have undervalued their back catalogue.
They could never have made this record if they hadn’t taken the path they had though. This isn’t a record where someone is simply pushing the boundaries of style and substance for the sake of it. This is the sound of a musical history both their own and their influences and it is a record that could only be made by a band who are not just musically comfortable with each other but as a band that have personally matured and seem more comfortable where they are in the world, personally, politically and socially. They are still able to support the underdog, ask for help when needed and still able to give a big dose of fuck you.
I know from my own experience that when you lose members of the original line-up in a band you can lose that aspect that made you who you were. It’s that loss of that gang mentality you and your mates against the world, believing in yourself. Here, however, the Yallas Yallas instead increased the gang size and invited all their musical mates to be included on the record and much like a lonely and scared dog can burst with confidence when introduced to other dogs as part of a larger pack The Yallas Yallas are now less of a gang and more of a pack and bursting with the excitement and confidence this brings
So what’s changed other than the merry go round of personnel? A lot and all of it has had a positive effect to really take the The Yallas Yallas to a new level. Emotionally, Galloway seems more at peace with himself (on record) than I have ever heard him produce. Yes, he still wears his heart on his sleeve but there is a distance with this record that creates a oneness with the listener that the more emotional and angry Galloway (although fantastic) cannot create. That rawness in the past is incredible but it is also personal with Outsider we are all on the outside looking in. There is more of a narrative feel meaning that it so much easier to relate to the lyrics.
The second big change? This is not simply a punk record this a pop record, a rock record, a stadium filling crosser of boundaries. Whilst Galloway has always been seen as the man of punk within Leeds, his own personal taste in music has always been on a large scale; U2, Guns N’ Roses, Patti Smith. Massive stadium filling songs and it is this spirit that The Yalla Yallas have been able to encapsulate on this record. Maybe they have always been capable of this, maybe they never wanted to move away from their punk routes, I don’t know but what I do know that this blend (or even clash) of styles has created a record full of guitar solos that transport you, songs that you can relate to, riffs fit for arenas and a record that you will simply love
I honestly could write an essay about all 11 songs on this album but just buy it when it is released, and you can form your own relationship with each of these tracks, but I will just go through some of my highlights.
It is with “Borrowed Heart” that you know that is going to be a very different record. From the opening refrain this comes across as a song that would not be out of place on a Gaslight Anthem record. That riff is truly inspiring and really makes you want to dance. A song not just about the riff though and lyrically it is perfect: “Everybody wants freedom, everyone wants more more, more, more. Me I want nothing; me I want nothing”. This is an instant classic and deserves to be the lead single in my opinion, just play on repeat, punch the sky and live life. The introduction of a saxophone at the end gives a Bruce Springsteen like feel and sheen to an already perfect song
“Another Day In Hell” continues this spirit, again excellent riffs and hooks that are not just exciting but an emotional depth. Lyrically this takes the previous song and takes it up a notch with a catchy verse chorus combination about being trapped in a relationship, life in front of you but hard to see a way out. The Yalla Yallas offer that escape.
“Problems” is classic Galloway and The Yalla Yallas, a sing along punk anthem but the production work on this takes it to another level, the backing vocals are almost choir like. The production work again has really made this record to come life. The Yalla Yallas have used long term producer Grant Henderson and as the band have been on this journey so has he and it tells with the professionalism and guidance on these tracks.
“I Got Nothing” is worth a mention for its Gun N’ Roses’ “Patience” vibe and the excellent “Walking in the Rain”, a simple piano led number, is not only catchy, melodic and simple but almost catches you unaware with the sudden change of pace.
I do want to mention one final track – “Into the Future” – what a way to finish the album. It’s a tremendous ending which is part Primal Scream, part Patti Smith Horses era and it manages to encapsulate the spirit and songwriting of both parties. It even has a cheeky middle eight where Galloway replicates Patti Smith’s most famous line of “Jesus died for your sins but not mine”. I have not mentioned, too much in this review, so far, the guitar of Will Grinder, it really does make this track and every song on this album, it is perfect, never too much but always there taking each song onto another level.
This could possibly be the greatest record you have not yet heard. I would get on it now. Two years ago, I thought that with Medusa they had made the perfect The Yalla Yallas record and that most likely their path had run its natural course. How wrong could I have been it turns out that they were only just getting started. Who would have thought that little kid with big sunglasses a laptop and at trashed guitar would go on a journey that would result in a record as good as this? Love life, love The Yalla Yallas.
Outsider is released 21st June