Monday, February 21, 2011

Gut Feeling: Yuck - Yuck

Yuck – Yuck

My comfort zone is actually quite small. In reality, I hate most music. I appreciate almost all music, for all its merits and all that, but the music I actually willingly listen to in my free time is safe. It's music with guitars, almost exclusively of an indie rock/alternative rock variety. It's what I enjoy, so I don't deny that despite the guilt I feel for never listening to hip hop or dance music or electronica. There's music critic world and there's the world I live in, which is soundtracked by distortion and sweet guitar riffs and fuzzy vocals. And that's why I love Yuck's eponymous debut. It's a cluttered mess of hooks and chord progressions and vocal lines and guitar tones borrowed from my favorite bands, and on that alone I can't really fault Yuck for anything. Yo La Tengo is pretty prevalent, notably in the perfectly timed female vocal harmonies. Eric's Trip is present in the construction of this record, which mimics “Love Tara”'s FAST DISTORTION PUNKY HOOKY JAM followed by PENSIVE SLOW BURN GORGEOUS SAD TRACK repeat for 12 songs aesthetic. Guided by Voices shows up in a coupled of guitar lines and hooks, Sebadoh is everpresent in the recording style, and the Breeders, the Lemonheads, Dinosaur Jr, Sonic Youth (on every song, naturally), and on and on and on. And I love it because I love that music.

And then I think of newer bands that Yuck are influenced by. They kind of sound like what I wish Broken Social Scene sounded like. They have a lot of the same favorite chords, except while BSS always kind of sounds nice, but boring, Yuck has a vitality that I can't quite explain. I waffle between feeling like they shouldn't sound vital because their sound is mostly a cobbling together of a bunch of other bands' sounds, but I think their sound is vital because it's bringing to the forefront a sound that has been largely forgotten and dismissed. It sounds like the bands I love, so I love it. Basically, that's my MO. The slow burners though, that's what kills me. “Shook Down” is a minor masterpiece, with a riff that reminds me of a certain pensive GBV track I can't remember, but the chorus with its gorgeous harmonies and it's familiar hook lures me in, and then that perfectly placed distorted breakdown takes it over the top. It's all the simple, raw, and yes, vital energy that Yuck distills into an excellent LP.

And yet, it's still uneven, but in the best way. The way “Love Tara” is uneven. It's distracting but in the way that you're never quite complacent. I feel like Yuck are in the same game as Girls, where they're crafting these songs that sound so familiar but they're also carving out their own sound within that. The outro on “Shook Down” could easily come from Christopher Owens & co, but at the same time, it's a little too dirty. A little too crusty, less pop majesty. A little bit too...Sebadoh. And then another awesome upbeat track happens and “Suicide Policeman” hits me in the stomach like an Elliot Smith song and this is where the lyrics happen. Understated for sure, but the perfect kind of understated. Not self-important or overly literate (despite my adoration of both the aforementioned lyrical sytlings), but like the recording quality, raw and to the point. “If you conjure up a fear/ Make it loud so I can hear the tambourine” is one of my favorite lines in recent memory.

At some point, later on in the album, someone actually DROPS the goddamned tambourine midsong, and it feels like they SHOULD have re-recorded but didn't because that was the real thing that kept the song real. That's really my only gripe with the album. That point where someone drops the tambourine. I feel like that's what makes something real, that in-studio fuck up that is overshadowed by the greatness of a certain song. Like the sound of Jeff Mangum getting out of a chair at the end of In the Aeroplane Over the Sea or Kim Deal fucking up the lyrics in “Huffer.” But it IS charming, and that's what this album has that makes it potent. It would be easily written off as a tribute to 90s alt rock, but the band members are too determined to make the best songs they can with the time they have. And THAT is what makes this a great record. Despite all the influences, Yuck's spirit and attitude makes this a great record. A lovable record. A record worth listening to because it sounds real and the hooks are excellent even if they come from here and there. “Georgia” sounds like three or four songs I've heard, but it also sounds like a song by a band called Yuck. It's a terrible band name, because there's nothing disgusting or yucky about Yuck, they deserve an iconic, excellent band name, but I'm not one to be picky. The slow burn sad jams are the best slow burn sad jams I've heard in a long, long time. “Suck” destroys me in all ways, and I had to analyze that destruction. It sounds like a song I've heard before. It hits a spot that's been hit before by another song. But it's got a spirit to it that feels naked and RAW RAW RAW, god there needs to be another word for raw. From the heart? I don't know. I've been spending a lot of time detoxing from being a music critic and just appreciating the things I like because of the way they make me feel, and this album makes me feel equal parts awesome and miserable, and that's an awesome thing. It feels like a journey, a quest, a trip. It's good stuff, and though they don't have an immediately recognizable spark of originality, I think Yuck prove that the sum of your influences most often sounds totally awesome.

P.S. While looking for cover art for this album, I found out that Yuck are from FUCKING ENGLAND. And they do America Alternative Rock so perfectly, I'm kind of ashamed of my compatriots for not appreciating their rich history! Way to go Yuck, I know I hate your band name and think you should have a way classier band name but your hooks and chords and riffs > current American indie rock bands.

P.S.S. "Sunday" sounds Kiwi-esque in the best possible way, how do you do it Yuck? It's not the Clean, it's not the Chills, but you're like the new wave of Flying Nun that's not even from New Zealand goddamnit I just love your hooks you bastards.

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