Yuck | s/t (Fat Possum)

Follow the album all the way through, and it ends up as a ’90s nostalgia ride with a confident, effortless songwriting ability.

Before Facebook, music fans had their own Yucks. It was a time of a real appreciation for everything involved with music. Physical album copies were massively coveted. Indie rock seemed a lot more grassroots without the computer. There wasn’t a stigma attached, an image of which to associate it with. What would become the life-sucking internet was only in its infancy in those days, not yet poised in the position to latch onto our brains. There was little negative distraction to throw off hours of things like cassette manipulation—recording off the radio waves, or fast-forwarding through a Soundgarden tape, or dubbing some motley existence of songs to force upon a friend. Remember how long it took to use cassettes? The last objective of this piece is to sound dated, but the overall point is that everything moves really quickly these days, and we’ve tons more drivel at our fingertips for ample distraction. As a result, a lot of music’s been thrust into the masses taking the same rushed approach: it’s disposable, it’s temporary, it’ll be forgotten.
Enter Yuck.
Let them really enter, though. Let your brain preconceive, as it typically does about this time, just from hearing a name, or reading what the music rags splattered about their pages. Let their self-titled appear in your possession, let it find its way into whatever makes your noise and drop the needle or press play and turn it up. You’re going to want that volume, because “Get Away,” the opener, can’t properly jolt your life without the loud. “I’m ready when the pain kicks in/ tell me when the pain kicks in,” sings Daniel Blumberg, right at a time when the “pain,” i.e., the driving hook, kicks in. It’s Jazzmaster string-bending on its best foot. Follow the album all the way through, and it ends up as a ’90s nostalgia ride with a confident, effortless songwriting ability.
Yuck represent a bloodline that runs through the likes of Dinosaur Jr. and Teenage Fanclub, but it would be a great inaccuracy to say they’re rip-offs. They craft familiar and comforting sounds, while at the same time possessing the ability to jar us out of sharp focus with their own brand of melody. Essentially, they’re doing what most every other band before them has done: taking a good sound and stamping their own logo all over it. “The Wall” is a straightforward punch-in-the-face anthem crafted with a general angst of some type in mind. “Operation” conjures a “Teen Age Riot” sentiment with a perfectly arranged structure. Everything happens when it’s supposed to, and that’s okay. The hook on “Sunday” could’ve been cherrypicked from anything on Swervedriver’s Mezcal Head. “Rose Gives a Lilly” is a Murray Street-era Sonic Youth chill-fest. But it works, because when Yuck write songs, something intrinsic and natural is happening. Good cover bands can rehash what’s been done and make it cool, but it takes something else to manipulate sounds we already know and succeed completely.
It’s easier to like Yuck because, aside from their sound being honest, they’re paying homage to a time in music that’s tough to criticize. In the late ’80s and early ’90s, indie music hadn’t yet lost its communal vibe, where bands helped each other for the greater common good. Reading Our Band Could Be Your Life and watching Hype! illustrate this phenomenon. It was a humbling time for a lot of musicians. Some were struggling on the road to garner any attention, but they were also writing songs for themselves, not for the approval of anyone on the outside. The sarcasm of Mudhoney, the scene apathy of Nirvana, and the lack of regard for normal guitar tuning of Sonic Youth inadvertently helped create an attitude of “Fuck it, we’re doing exactly what we want, and we don’t care if anyone else cares.”
We can loosely connect this to Yuck because of their music, but maybe they know what they’re making is approachable. It doesn’t matter, though, because their hearts are in it. A song like “Stutter” can’t be written by heartless ’90s music thieves. It’s too soft, too virgin, and too heartfelt.
The album rounds out with “Rubber,” a song that starts as a slow-burning lo-fi vocal distortion fest and eventually mixes in welcoming feedback and heavy cymbal crash-riding to bring it home. All of this holds the sludgy riff in place, and the lyrics end up alternating with a beckoning “Should I give in?” to “Yes, I give in.” I give in, too. Yuck, you win. Justin Curia | A
RIYL: Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr.

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