October 23, 2013
Record Reactions: Yuck – Glow And Behold
Welcome to Record Reactions, where I share my thoughts on a new release from the worlds of popular and independent music. Today’s record is Glow and Behold, the new release from the indie band Yuck.
When news broke in April of this year that Yuck, last year’s breakout indie starlets, had lost their lead singer Daniel Blumberg to solo endeavors, it seemed that the only ones not panicking were the band members themselves. Blumberg wrote or co-wrote almost every song on Yuck’s popular self-titled debut, and he sang on all but one track. It was obvious that he was beyond an integral member of the team; he was its leader. The band’s sound, that bright, fuzzy indie pop sound, was his.
I don’t want to make assumptions about the power structure of the group, but Blumberg looked like a confident leader. And now that he has gone, the rest of the band has been given free reign to stretch and explore. And the results, though familiar, are mixed.
Sunset In Maple Shade starts off cleanly, with some of the cleanest guitar tones Yuck has produced since their start. Yuck started off with a fast, catchy band and took off running from there. Glow and Behold starts with an introspective instrumental jam lost somewhere between shoegaze and post-rock.
In fact, that trademark fuzz and high-tempo jam-rock that was so loved on the band’s debut doesn’t even kick in until the fifth track, Middle Sea. For most of the LP, that frantic, frenetic energy has been replaced by a generally calmer, slower mood. Yuck has elected for some cleaner, poppy balladry, and these songs are allowed to breathe.
Now that Blumberg has stepped out, Max Bloom has take over vocal duties. Bloom’s voice is smoother, and probably prettier, than Blumberg’s. But it can’t quite match the shrill, bare tone and the versatility of Blumberg. Blumberg’s vocals could hide in the mix, but they still forced their way out when they needed to. It didn’t matter that there was only one line of lyrics on The Wall, from Yuck’s last album. It was cool that Blumberg’s vocals were occasionally clipped, that you couldn’t always make out what he was saying.
While making these stylistic changes, Yuck also seem to be making every effort to assure listeners that nothing important has changed. Sonically, of course, there is similarity. And even the album cover is similar in artistic style to their debut; on the surface this looks like any other follow-up record. But differences do manage to surface.
Of course, that hefty paycheck earned from the first effort is still in play. This album is cleanly produced, shiny and bright. Random instruments make little appearances around the fringe of the sound: there are some synthesizers on Rebirth, and a very prominent trumpet on How Does It Feel. I’m not sure how I feel about those instruments; though they add some depth, they take away from the DIY, garage-fuzz charm that Yuck pumped their music through.
As much as Yuck would like to dispute it, Yuck was a moment captured and frozen in time. There’s a reason this band graced the cover of so many indie magazines and top-ten lists last year. What made Yuck so incredibly special was its pop appeal set amidst this unique style of songwriting. It was something new. The feeling of listening to Yuck for the first time, hearing the drive as well as the ease behind the music, was something special.
These are all good enough songs, but I was waiting for something to blow me away. I thought it would happen on Middle Sea, and again on Rebirth. Perhaps that’s unfair. Can a group really be expected to catch lightning in a bottle twice in a row?
They’ve avoided their sophomore slump, they’ve begun playing with some new toys, and they’ve found a new, more introspective and explorative sound, one that they might be happier with.
I just feel as though there is much more going on in say, Get Away or Shook Down than almost any song on Glow and Behold. Sure, this record is cleaner, but at what cost? To be fair, there are a few great sentiments expressed on Glow and Behold. The lyrics on Somewhere, combined with its descending melody, make for one of the truest and most beautiful moments on the record. But are any of these statements as beautiful, impactful, or perfect as the line from Shook Down: “you could be my destiny, you could mean that much to me”?
Is this still the same band that loved guitar abuse, would end shows with 10-minute feedback solos? This is a different band. But the original themes are still there.
There’s a little breakdown at the end of the album – it makes for a total “where did that come from?” moment. How Does It Feel might be the best representation of everything Yuck is, past and present. There are new additions like a trumpet line and a new singer, but there’s still an explosive recapitulation and a blast of a guitar solo, all set amidst that familiar fuzz that we love so very much.
No offenses have been made on Glow and Behold, but no advances either. In terms of the Yuck we once knew they’ve made an excellently safe, face-saving, damage-control record. But in terms of the new Yuck, they may have made some brilliant advances, worked out their kinks, and delivered some great material. We just have to wait and see how all of this pans out in the big picture.
Favorite Tracks: Middle Sea, Rebirth
Remember these reviews are just my opinion, and that little number up there doesn’t mean much! Have you heard this album? What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with me? If you would like to let me know your opinion, you can hit me up on my email, or tweet at me @RobinCopple1. I am dying to know what you think! Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you on the flipside!
Image Credit: Yuck / Fat Possum