Album Review – Stranger Things / Yuck

1452548606658Yuck first appeared with their self-titled album in 2011, which promised great things for all of the bands recycling their favourite 90s alternative rock and Yuck themselves. However, when their lead vocalist Daniel Blumberg left in 2013, the band were left to try and continue on without him and his noisier influences. What happened next was Glow And Behold, which was much poppier and showed that Yuck could still perform to as good a standard as with their ex-frontman. Their third album tries to strike a chord in between the noise and the pop, so we get beautiful acoustic-guitar led tracks such as ‘Like A Moth’ or the power-pop of ‘Cannonball’. They easily set the lush pop of ‘Down’ beside the shoegazey 6 minute outro ‘Yr Face’. The shoegaze part of Yuck has definitely emerged stronger this time around, but it never takes up too much time or blatantly rips off the Jesus and Mary Chain or My Bloody Valentine. The way Yuck perform is that they like the 90s, but they’ll cherrypick the best parts and create variation in their albums. That’s the best part of Stranger Things – there’s plenty of different genres here.

Max Bloom’s no killer vocalist unfortunately, but even Daniel Blumberg was mostly limited to a hyper-effected shout. Instead, Bloom has more of an indie-pop voice which is suited to the less noisy songs that Yuck produce. If he was fronting The Pains of Being Pure At Heart, chances are he wouldn’t sound too out of place. On ‘Stranger Things’, his slacker-sigh is suited to the repeated lines of ‘I hate myself’ over such a beautiful guitar line or ‘Why why do you wanna die?’. It’s a crippling song of self-loathing after a brutal breakup. This poppy side of Yuck works perfectly well, especially when they balance it out with something that’s going to rock out a bit. Because as much as we like the crooked doo-wop of ‘I’m OK’, ‘Hearts In Motion’, with its ‘Is This It’/’Where Is My Mind’ intro and guitar freakouts hits the right spot. Max Bloom even pushes his voice to embrace Blumberg’s effects-heavy vocalisms. The rest of the band play perfectly on ‘Hearts In Motion’, sounding more like a sweaty basement band with arena ambitions than they have since their debut. It’s good to see Jonny Rogoff flexing his drumming muscles and equalling the dominating guitars on the track.

The way Yuck perform is that they like the 90s, but they’ll cherrypick the best parts and create variation in their albums

‘Down’, another shoegaze/pop mixup, takes the eerie acoustic chords of Arcade Fire’s ‘Ocean Of Noise’ and stretches some blissful electric guitar and even some scrabbled synths over the top. The synths are actually a really neat feature, despite all of the sacrilege they bring to these pure guitar bands. If Yuck incorporated them more often, their sound will change even more on their next album. But the most shoegaze that Yuck get is saved for their last song ‘Yr Face’, which has more than a whiff of My Bloody Valentine about it, plus more recognisable vocals from Bloom, which work here as his vocals tend to bleed into the instrumentation anyway on the poppier tracks, so when it comes to shoegaze, where the voice is mostly just another ethereal instrument in the mix, it works wonders. It’s a six-minute track, so Yuck have some variation in the structure; with a secondary guitar playing a clearer tone on the solo and going full J. Mascis on the wha-pedal outro. It’s very hard to put a wah solo in a song now and not sound like a parody, so when a band does it well, you have to congratulate them.

Saved from difficult second album limbo by this third album, Yuck are back on track after losing their primary vocalist and songwriter by a band that are twice as good and compliment each other much better. It’s a shame that bassist Mariko Doi doesn’t feature on more than ‘As I Walk Away’; it’d be interesting to see her take the vocal spotlight from Bloom, or even for them to bounce off one another in a single song more than they do on ‘As I Walk Away’. Still, it’s a tease for the future, as are the minimal synths in ‘Down’. The band are still indebted to their 90s heroes, but at least they have embraced it and are creating variation with what they love, rather than pass it off as something it isn’t. Yuck might not be the most original band around, but they do it so well that you just sort of have to let them get away with it.


Funnel Recommends: Like A Moth / I’m OK / Hearts In Motion