Grunge revivalists' triumphant debut
On May 18 last year, [a]Yuck[/a] played first at an ATP show at the O2 Shepherds Bush Empire in London. Top of the bill were grizzle-guitared American alt.rock veterans [a]Dinosaur Jr[/a]. This was before the London foursome started disdainfully sneering about how “we only really care about melody” when asked to expand on their lyrics or influences. Before that show, guitarist Max Bloom was happy to natter about how his heart might detonate if he got to meet Dino mainman and US indie guitar legend J Mascis.
The unashamed fan-gush played pretty well into the hands of those who label [a]Yuck[/a] as derivative copyists with less originality flowing through their veins than [a]Brother[/a]’s communal bathwater. Because that [a]Yuck[/a] sound – well, we’ve heard all its elements before. The Dino-ish feedback squalls, the [a]Pixies[/a]-dusted bendy basslines, the grind-wall [a]Sonic Youth[/a] guitar skewerings… really, if there was a plaid-uniformed school of US college-dorm alt.rock, these four would be sat on the front desks arguing over who brought in Headmaster Malkmus the shiniest apple.
Familiar, yes, but purely derivative? Well, to dismiss [a]Yuck[/a] due to the weight of their influences would be as wise as having passed up a ticket for a show on [a]Franz Ferdinand[/a]’s first UK tour in favour of playing ’80s Postcard Records seven-inches. But more importantly, to bypass [a]Yuck[/a] would be imbecilic simply because their debut contains some of the most effortlessly hard-hitting, heart-hitting pop of 2011.
Opener [b]‘Get Away’[/b] is a mid-paced, understated introduction to what Yuck are about – ‘Doolittle’-touched thud-lines from Japanese bassist Mariko Doi, gym-sock-over-the-mic lo-fi vocals from singer Daniel Blumberg and a snaking fuzz-guitar riff creating something so early [a]Sparklehorse[/a] it balls up a lump in your throat. Its slacker-ish, lolloping pace (shared by second song and album highlight [b]‘The Wall’[/b]) conjures the image of [a]Yuck[/a] waking up in a pile of duvets, leaning over and plugging in to record before they’ve got within a coffee-sniff of the day, and it only makes the whole thing feel more endearing and real.
It’s this kind of noise that [a]Yuck[/a] strike as their keynote, but while musical revolutions are far from the agenda there is still impressive variety here. [b]‘Shook Down’[/b]’s confident acoustics evoke [a]REM[/a] at their downbeat peak, while ‘Suicide Policeman’ and ‘Georgia’ re-align the sights from the college radio towers of the US to somewhere closer to home: the former evoking Teenage Fanclub at their most off-guard and tender, the latter the same band at their most upbeat.
[b]‘Georgia’[/b], the darker trudge of [b]‘Operation’[/b], the sleepy lullaby-ish tones of [b]‘Stutter’[/b]… all examples of [a]Yuck[/a] transcending their comparisons through sheer force of melody to squash their deriders like bugs under ankle-high DMs. And together, on this album, further proof that you don’t have to be pushing things forward to be out in front.