Y!ikes are a fast-moving band, they’ve only existed as an entity since meeting on some interstellar ship in February 2019, and emerging with their début ep in only March of this year, right before all this Covid silliness came crashing down on our heads. But, rather than bury their heads in the sand, Y!kes have used the Covid shutdown of the universe to craft new songs, perfect their riffage, and emerge with a new ep, Mass!ve, which goes live tomorrow, Friday, 28 August. Mass!ve was prefaced with a new single, ‘Pirouette,’ which we took a listen to just last week.
Y!kes describe themselves as an anti-noise pop block, which means, in essence, they carry on in the long established tradition of glam, descendant from Bowie and Bolan, via Hanoi Rocks and, especially, early Manic Street Preachers. Guitarist Liam Howard is a student of the riff, and on Mass!ve, his riffage reaches new levels of glory. In our review of ‘Pirouette’ last week, our man Karl Rozyn drew a comparison with the late, great Hillel Slovak. It is a just comparison. But as much as Howard’s guitars and TJ Yates slamming drums (he is one of my favourite Insta follows, his videos of him smashing the skins are brilliant!), and Matt Ford’s bass drive the music, it is frontman Olli Long who makes Y!kes tick.
On video, he is an ideal frontman, a showman, all glam, sneer, and snide. He has the moves, and he has the voice to back it up. And on record, his voice dominates proceedings, veering between a Billy Corgan drawl and a Jello Biafra punkrock sneer. I have been listening to Mass!ve on repeat for the past couple of weeks. You should be too.
The ep starts with ‘Pirouette,’ and Karl was bang on about this track. That segues into ‘Alice,’ which starts with this glorious riff from Howard, before the song kicks in with his screaming lead as Yates and Ford propel the music onwards. Long’s long, drawn out sneer then takes over the song, especially when he drops an octave and growls. But. Long and Howard spend the remaining time of this song battling for control of the song.
‘Door Frame Angel’ comes at us with another riff from Howard, this one distorted before the hard-charghing rhythm section kick in. Here, Long is mellower, his voice deeper in the mix. But he once again battles Howard for dominance. In his review of Ep!c, Karl worried about the synth for Y!kes, but here, the synth riff that runs over the song at points is perfectly placed.
‘Faker Master’ begins slow, with Long singing over a clean riff, calling to mind everything glam dating back to Nazareth, and I mean that as a complement. Nazareth were the shit back in the day before the day, and I’ll take on anyone who disputes that. This is a love song, or maybe an anti-love song, and once it kicks into gear, we’ve got a rocked out track. Howard’s guitar work is, as should be clear by now, outstanding throughout this ep, but this might be his best moment. The way his riff charge forward and occasionally veer into a strangulated scream is amazing. ‘Step Away’ begins in a haze of feedback before Howard’s guitar churns forward. This might be the most radio-friendly of this ep, as Long is dealing with heartbreak once again. The bridge of the song is melodic and pretty.
Y!kes are a mighty fine band who have taken a massive step forward with Mass!ve, and this is music that was created to be played live in front of a crowd of sweaty, writhing bodies, it is just unfortunate we are in the mess, though perhaps we should ignore Van Morrison’s recommendations. Like I said, I can’t stop listening to this album, the guitars, Long’s vocals, and the hard-charging rhythm section all come together here for Y!kes with a masterpiece.