Genre revivals tend to work in a similar fashion to local music scenes: one or two groups take something well-worn and find some unexplored creative territory within it, and most of the deluge of bands that follow are more or less direct copycats. We saw this with the dance-rock revival in the early 2000s when Interpol and the Rapture begat the likes of the Bravery. This ‘90s revival that has taken up the past few years is a little different, though. Since it’s less a revival of a genre and more of a revival of a decade’s tastes and pop culture, the groups that have arisen out of live for the ‘90s aren’t quite copycats, nor do they provide anything different for this generation of listeners. This is why a band like Yuck stands out. Compared to the number of bands who bash out chords while projecting an empty sense of emotional detachment (looking at you, Naomi Punk…), Yuck’s unabashed love for this music makes their work all the more enjoyable, even if they’re not doing anything new. That enthusiasm made their self-titled debut album one of 2011’s real delights, and it carries over to their follow-up Glow & Behold.
Despite the massive change that should have come with the departure of lead singer Daniel Blumberg, Yuck haven’t especially changed all that much on Glow & Behold. In Blumberg’s absence, guitarist Max Bloom takes over most of the lead vocal duties, providing a cleaner vocal presence than Blumberg, even if Bloom falls a little flat at times. Bassist Mariko Doi takes a larger role here than she did on the band’s debut, inviting even more My Bloody Valentine comparisons with a vocal presence that could be a dead ringer for Bilinda Butcher. Otherwise, Glow & Behold is actually kind of business as usual for Yuck. It’s another album of songs influenced by a grab-bag of influences ranging from the obvious (Pavement on the jangly “Out of Time”, Built to Spill on “Memorial Fields”) to the more esoteric (“Middle Sea” recalls either a simpler Ride or a punkier Velocity Girl). They also haven’t lost their knack for melody and arrangement. As on their debut, the songs here are expertly and enthusiastically performed, showing that the band have learned the right lessons from their heroes.
The simple joys of the first album are still there on Glow & Behold, but one can’t help but be slightly disappointed by the result. Part of that may come from the fact that the album sounds a little too similar to their debut, as the closest the band comes to changing their core sound are the more shoegaze flourishes on “Lose My Breath” and “Rebirth”. Admittedly, this is something they do well since they’ve managed to find a healthy balance of ethereal guitar noise and primal rocking that managed to elude some of the original bands from that era. Still, it’s not enough to shake off the feeling that the band is creatively stalled, especially when there’s nothing as truly brilliant as “Suicide Policeman” and “Get Away” were on the debut. Worse still, Glow & Behold contains the first true dud of the band’s career in its title track, a meandering mess of a song that almost derails the entire album.
Ultimately, though, there’s nothing inherently wrong with pastiche. Yuck aren’t especially offensive for having obvious, easy-to-spot musical predecessors. Arguably, that’s part of the band’s charm, and they’re still plenty charming on Glow & Behold. They may be playing things that have already been heard before, but it’s a real pleasure to hear their take on the past.
// Notes from the Road
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