opinion byMATTHEW M.F. MILLER
It’s a bold statement that Yuck chose to open their sophomore album, Glow and Behold, with a vocal-free track given that this long-gestating project came to fruition without the original voice of the band.
On the London-based group’s likable, 2011 self-titled debut album, singer/guitarist Daniel Blumberg’s vocals squawked appropriately low in the mix, sung through the same muffled distortion as the punk-lite wailing guitars. His casual yet snarling delivery, featured on the majority of the band’s songs, was a great fit for a group that modeled its sound after Dinosaur Jr., Sonic Youth, and The Strokes. Even the most earnest songs had an edge thanks to some good old-fashioned sonic grit.
Since Blumberg’s departure in April 2013, fans have been eager to see where in the pantheon of singer-swaps Yuck would fall. Would band co-founder Max Bloom’s step-up to the full-time mic be as smooth as Genesis promoting Phil Collins from drummer to superstar, or would this be more akin to The Doors post Jim Morrison debacle?
Glow and Behold’s opening track, “Sunrise In Maple Shade”, forces listeners to withhold judgment, albeit briefly, by essentially repeating the same measure of music over nearly three minutes of monotony. It’s an attempt both to distance your expectations of Yuck from this new iteration as well as to establish a complete change of course. Stylistically, the song is a far cry from the last time we heard from Yuck – its clean, plucky guitars are almost as shocking as the simple horns that punctuate the delicate, dreamy vibe.
Second track “Out of Time” kicks in with a sunny, mid-tempo, 90s college rock vibe, and neither the pace nor the tone ever strays too far. The whole album feels like a duller version of the moody, lovelorn swoon bands like Travis and Snow Patrol made semi-famous at a time when sounding like Toad the Wet Sprocket was considered indie so long as you were from the U.K.
Pretty much everything has changed and none of it for the better. Song length is a problem across the board. Taking two minutes of an idea and stretching it out across tunes that consistently clock in at around the four-minute mark shows a real lack of focus and voice. “Rebirth” starts off as a promising ode to Tears For Fears era pop, but the lyrics are dreck (“Hold me down in the sunlight to sacrifice myself. I don’t want your love, I want you”), and even patient listeners will be checking their iPhones to see how much playtime is left.
The first single off Glow and Behold, “Middle Sea”, is a comparative highlight. Bloom brings a bit of life to the affair shouting, “I don’t want to live forever. I don’t want to live. I want you now.” It provides the album’s only break from meandering politeness to rock out and screech. For a few minutes it feels like the Yuck of old, but even the album’s most fun track grows tiresome fast once it’s apparent there are nine lines of lyrics stretched across a four-plus minute song.
Yes, a few of the albums tracks, such as earworm “Lose My Breath” are catchy enough to find their way onto your favorite teen drama series this fall, but they make very little sense as part of the small yet sturdy Yuck catalogue. Nothing here approaches the bouncy punk of “The Wall” or the early R.E.M. garage rock of “Holing Out” from their debut. Despite losing only one member, this is an entirely different band. Truly, the only thing that hasn’t changed is the band’s name, which is probably the very first thing that should have been altered. Although now, the name is no longer a misnomer.
If the Yuck of yore was the perfect soundtrack to a college hipster’s low-key summer kegger, the new Yuck begs to be the romantic soundtrack to your next autumnal walk in the park. Grab a latte and strap on your headphones, lovebirds – it’s about to get soft rock up in here. [C-]