A new singer, and a new subtlety, but the slacker-pop crew’s second suffers from an oomph shortage
When Yuck released their self-titled debut album back in 2011, things took off quickly for the London-based five-piece. They were buzzing on the tips of music industry tongues, and they revelled in the heavyweight comparisons – Dinosaur Jr here, Pavement there – that were flung their way. Not bad for a bunch of musicians in their early twenties. But in April this year, singer Daniel Blumberg left the band to concentrate on other projects – he’s currently making woozy, heart-torn lullabies as Hebronix – leaving the remaining three members to reshuffle and rethink for this second effort. Guitarist Max Bloom has stepped up as lead vocalist, and the band have tamed their rather raw homage to ’90s alt.rock dinosaurs, replacing those fuzzy, feedback-drenched roars of old with a softer, sweeter sound. True, there were moments of quiet contemplation on ‘Yuck’ – the gentle lull of ‘Shook Down’, the slowcore of ‘Suck’ – but even those had coarse edges and a palpable tension crackling beneath them.
As the pretty bad pun of this record’s title suggests, the 11 tracks on ‘Glow & Behold’ glow rather than growl. Instead of being covered with the scuzzy, dirty fuzz that coated their debut, they’re cleaner and more clinical. The upbeat ‘Middle Sea’ retains some of the murkiness of old, with Bloom’s angular vocals dancing as sludgy guitars thrash out a driving rhythm. But for the most part, this is an exercise in gentle, flowing melodies and soothing, sun-drenched songs. It’s a change in direction that ‘Sunrise In Maple Shade’, the lilting instrumental opener, gently eases the listener into. Bloom’s voice, too, is much softer than Blumberg’s, lending these songs a more syrupy, saccharine glaze. At times, as on the summery shoegaze of ‘Lose My Breath’ and the carefree dreaminess of ‘Out Of Time’ or ‘Memorial Fields’, this shift in direction sparkles with style and heart. Largely, though, the verve that made their debut exciting is, unfortunately, AWOL.
‘Rebirth’ and ‘Somewhere’ drift along dreamily, but both lack conviction. Slacker-pop bands need to feel what they’re playing, and here it sounds like Yuck just aren’t invested in these songs. The lacklustre jangle of ‘Nothing New’ is precisely that, while ‘How Does It Feel’ is a ’60s dirge, replete with Bacharach-style horns, that trudges gleefully into MOR territory. Oddly, the saccharine title track that closes the album sounds like a Cast B-side, and rams home Yuck’s identity crisis. Somewhere beneath the unconvincing sheen of these songs there’s a great band trying to break out. Maybe next time.