[8 December 2011]
Yuck’s self-titled debut, which originally dropped back in February, is attitude caged, all sneer and snarl, fuzz and feedback. It hearkens back to the early ‘90s, maybe the last time rock truly ruled, and in light of PopMatters’ exhaustive feature on 1991, there might be no better time than now for an album like Yuck. The band’s picked up plenty of comparisons to seminal indie bands Dinosaur Jr. and Sonic Youth for their distinctive marriage of fuzz-drenched guitars, stunning melodicism, and sheer noise; I’ll volunteer My Bloody Valentine and the Smashing Pumpkins to that list, as well. What’s fascinating about Yuck is that they evoke all of these cornerstone bands of the early ‘90s without ever feeling hackneyed or derivative. Their songs are deceptively simple but never dull, with moods that vacillate between tossed-off and devastatingly sincere.
That sincerity isn’t exactly out of character, considering the proto-emo roots the band taps into, and it may be what really sets Yuck apart from the pack. On songs like opener “Get Away” and “Operation”, Yuck balance blunt-trauma sonics with a tender heart; the former deals mainly in the bright-dark contrast between guitarists Daniel Blumberg and Max Bloom for nearly two minutes until it explodes into the keening chorus, “Summer sun says get out now, I want you / I need you”. There’s also the teenage romanticism of “Georgia”, the waterlogged depression of “Stutter”, and the droning wail of the Mogwai-esque face-melter “Rubber”. Much like another group of precocious British kids, the xx, Yuck are excellent at crystallizing young emotion in all its chaos and ambiguity.
No matter how great the album is, though, it’s initially a little surprising to see Yuck get the deluxe reissue treatment just eight months after its initial release. But when you think about it, it makes sense: despite considerable critical acclaim, the album and the band have failed to generate the same kind of buzz as other debut artists like Cults and tUnE-yArDs. You could hypothesize for hours as to why that’s the case, but suffice it to say that Yuck is a band that’s still decidedly under the radar, relatively speaking.
Will this deluxe reissue help increase the band’s exposure? It’s hard to say, but the band and the label have done a good job of sweetening the deal. This version of the album ships with a 6-song EP (simply titled Yuck: Disc 2) featuring a couple of the group’s recent singles and a handful of outtakes. The best of these is “Milkshake”, which appeared as part of a double A-side with “Shook Down” in May; it might be their poppiest song to date, and it features a centerpiece lyric—“You can be so unkind / You’re making a milkshake of my mind”—that would sound ridiculously silly if Blumberg didn’t deliver it so earnestly. Another highlight is “The Base of a Dream Is Empty”, a washed out, inscrutable fever dream of a song with an otherworldly synth riff and lots of pitch modulation. They’re more a bonus than a unified artistic statement, but if nothing else, these six bonus songs are a peek at what direction the young band might be headed in.
This is an age full of great indie-rock revivalists, and Yuck may be near the front of the vanguard. Their mission statement, if they have one, probably doesn’t have anything to do with reinventing the wheel; they make lots of noise and try to sound pretty while they do it. It makes for a rich, layered listening experience, whether the record’s getting its first spin or its 50th, and Yuck ensure that there’s never a dull moment along the way.