This review of Yuck‘s Glow & Behold has to start with commending the band. I can’t think of many indie rock bands that have survived the departure of their principle songwriter and lived to release another collection of songs, let alone one that follows a tangible path from the previous incarnation of the band. Despite the loss of frontman Daniel Blumberg to his new solo project Hebronix, Yuck have persevered and offered another helping of tracks for those of us who still worship Dinosaur Jr. and Pavement.
Now, it’s all too easy to compare Yuck to Blumberg’s solo effort, so perhaps a better analysis would be to examine the changes that have occurred between the 2011 incarnation of Yuck and the 2013 Yuck. In 2011, Yuck produced one of the fuzziest and most memorable debut albums of the year. Through shoegaze roots, the band allowed soaring melodies to sing above layers of guitars and background vocal harmonies. Yuck were beautifully melodic, while not afraid of dissonance and noise, just like all of your favourite ’90s bands.
They paired beautiful sadness with earnest optimism through contrasting lyrics and sonic dimensions––Yuck produced an album that made best-of lists worldwide and is still a firm favourite in many record collections. But what happens when a band lauded by critics and beloved by fans lose their frontman?
Watch: Yuck – Middle Sea
At times, the songs on Glow & Behold feel, well, tired. And while this is something that was present on the previous record, particularly on tracks like Suicide Policeman and Suck, those tracks felt like they still had life in them. Yuck were sleepy, but they weren’t tired.
The songs on Glow & Behold lack the zest and hope that attracted so many to their debut. The youth and inspiration is all but there as Yuck struggle to recreate their self-titled debut without Blumberg. Yuck opened with a crash, launching straight into their most celebrated track, Get Away. Meanwhile, Glow & Behold opens with a sun-drenched and reverberant chord progression that drags on for the better part of three minutes without really going anywhere.
Yuck aren’t a band recognised for the prowess of their instrumental tracks, so I struggle to find much to say about the two such tracks on the record. They remain unremarkable and don’t really allow for any interesting jams or hooks to support them. They remain somewhat forgettable. Pleasant, but forgettable.
The first voice that’s heard on the record is that of promoted former guitarist now frontman, Max Bloom. The nasal twang of Blumberg’s voice combined with the unrelenting prominence of bold guitar hooks were what made the singles of the debut so sonically defining for Yuck. It’s hard to say whether the soft palate of Bloom is anywhere near as endearing.
Watch: Yuck – Rebirth
The album does have some seriously memorable moments. Out of Time features the combination of fuzzy chords and uplifting lead guitars that were a staple of the band. In a similar vein, Lose My Breath is another standout cut from the record, lush in its imagery and featuring complimentary lyricism and instrumentation.
Shoegazing double Middle Sea and Rebirth form the strongest pair of tracks on the album. The deliberate nature of Middle Sea, with its pounding and resonant percussion, contrasts perfectly with the spacious nature of the latter track.
On the title track, Yuck sing “The end is coming soon I’m told / But I don’t really mind“. Sadly, it’s pretty telling for this band. It’s hard to say whether or not they really had any inspiration behind this record, or if it was born out of a need to drop something. It wouldn’t be all too unsurprising if this is the last offering we hear from Yuck, at least in this manifestation.
Yuck’s latest album, Glow & Behold is out this Friday, 11th October.