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City Yelps
The City Yelps Half Hour Hayley Scott , June 2nd, 2016 14:41

City Yelps don’t seem like a band that belong in 2016. Not because they’re nostalgic throwbacks (despite sharing subtle likenesses with bands like Swell Maps and, particularly, The Clean – not to mention their posters look like something straight out of a fanzine from 1986) but amidst the perfectly poised bands who play their instruments with knowing proficiency, they’re somewhat of the antithesis of all that. The City Yelps Half Hour is nothing if not timely, however: at present, no other city celebrates self-sufficiency in such a way Leeds does. With Austerity comes a cultural backlash, and local music scenes typically thrive when they’re expected to admit defeat.

Taking DIY quite literally, City Yelps are a band that do everything within their means. You only have to look at the hand-crafted sleeve for their new LP to gauge the strength of their conviction – the cut-and-paste, typewritten contents of the back summing up their witty, don’t give a fuck appeal perfectly, particularly in the amusingly irreverent descriptions of each song: “evening noise, quiet neighbourhoods, also mentions bats. This song gives Bryan Adams’ ‘Summer of 69’ a run for its money” – that’s the accompanying blurb for gutsy opener ‘Shut Up’.

Having seen them play live numerous times - in tiny, mostly unoccupied spaces around Leeds - the gig that stands out more than any other is the one that they describe as being their worst. But to me, it was refreshingly shoddy: disorganised, chaotic, seemingly unrehearsed – stopping each song not long after it’s started, fiddling with equipment, and giving up half way through. It’s this kind of unpredictability that’s missing in live music now. You never know what you’re going to get when you see City Yelps, but it’s always a memorable experience.

The chaos of their live shows translates well on record, but here they sound more focused and together: the vocals are coherent enough to hear what’s sung, as opposed to the muffled echo you’re treated to in the live incarnation. The guitar sounds appropriately detuned and shambling, revealing a knack for messy Flying Nun-esque melodies that sit perfectly atop of the voice’s sneering baritone. ‘We Like The Hours’ (in this song, ‘hours’ sounds like ‘owls’ – I was disappointed to find out it’s not actually about owls) is a triumphant hybrid of psych and post-punk that’s jagged at the edges, the shout-along chorus staying in your head for days.

Everything remains pleasingly basic – from simple but effective drumming (she doesn’t use the kick drum, but you can barely tell) to the lively, prominent bass, sounding particularly glorious on ‘The Corn’ – a song that’s mostly instrumental and exhibits a version of City Yelps turning their hand at “disco”.

On paper, they seem like proponents of everything that’s synonymous with basement dwelling garage rock, but City Yelps are quick to dispute that, rejecting the ‘lo-fi’ tag with perhaps a hint of irony. Those who are averse to unrefined recording techniques though will think that this LP sounds like it’s been recorded in a biscuit tin, but compared to their 2014 cassette release Cheap Psych, The City Yelps Half Hour sounds noticeably clearer and more concise. Still, the rawness of these recordings sound even more resonant, and anything but contrived.

The City Yelps Half Hour is essentially a punk record – it’s not easy listening, and your mum would probably hate it, but there’s enough of a pop sensibility present not to alienate fans of the more indie pop persuasion. This is music that’s unashamedly imperfect and blemished, and you can’t help but love them for it.

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