‘Born Loser (Live and Acoustic)' by YNESReview
Until yesterday, I honestly had no idea whatsoever as to whether I'd ever be able to write a new YNES review again.
You probably are pretty conversant with her upwards trajectory over the past few years: highly original & uncompromising single after single, driving her artistic profile ever higher until Billy Bragg offered her a slot on his stage at Glastonbury. To say she was a favourite locally and in the magazine would be something of an understatement. She lit up the scene like a rocket bursting.
And then at the start of 2023, she relocated to Canada & that was a surprise: no more gigs, no more releases, just a sense of loss & bewilderment.
I suppose in hindsight, this might have been predicted if only because YNES had an obvious contempt for being predictable herself. Such an unexpected move which utterly confounded expectations could be a move of artistic originality.
I gather that she had formed a desire to move anyway: I think settling into patterns & comfortable routines smacks of complacency to her, but I believe that film work (soon scuppered by the industrial action) catalysed the original move. Since then, she seems to have been exploring options & presumably enriching her experience doing so, but at last we have a new musical release to comment on.
You will however know all the songs on ‘Born Loser (Live and Acoustic)' as the title completely gives it away: it's the five songs ("I Wanna Be Overrated", "Fake What Your Mama Gave Ya", "The Daily Male", "Dizzy" and "Veneer") from the ‘Born Loser' EP, which we reviewed this time last year, played….. live and acoustically at the Velo Star Café in Vancouver (where she is currently based) and recorded by Eddie Lam.
Although familiar, the songs benefit from this stripped back interpretation: this is a most valid artistic exercise. You are probably equally familiar with YNES' full on, in-your-face, punk rock stage shows (equally energising & to be honest a little frightening too) but on this occasion, playing her acoustic guitar throughout, I assume any writhing about on the floor was out of the question.
What we hear is her emphasising what can be heard on so many of her songs: a deep melancholy, often at the foolishness of the world and some of the bigger fools she encounters in it. The songs tend to rip them & their pretensions to shreds, but the sadness is there. Removing the oomph of the original studio recordings leaves YNES very emotionally vulnerable on this score & if I had to single out one facet of this live version of the EP it's how often songs tremble as if she's having difficulty holding it together thinking of & singing about these subjects. It is incredibly moving & the quality of the record involves the listener in that state of mind repeatedly.
The record, paired with its original, serves to present a three dimensional YNES & that is a marvellous thing to do. Dualities abound: this is a complex human being with the sensitivities to detect bullshit: sometimes calling it out & ridiculing its practitioners, yet also capable of hurting because of it.
By the simple act of re-imagining these five songs to achieve the above, YNES has taken yet another step forwards. On the other hand, I have no inkling at all what she will do next or build on this: and that I think is the nature of her genius. Keeps us on our toes at any rate.