Friday, October 4, 2013

Gut Feeling: Yuck - Glow & Behold

Yuck – Glow & Behold
Fat Possum, 2013
Out of nowhere, Yuck stole the top spot of my year end list in 2011 with their eponymous debut (and it was so damn good I wrote about it twice on this blog). The band’s knack for cribbing tones from the American alternative rock of the 90s that I love so much cut straight to my heart and their gift for taking those influences and spinning them into something that sounded new and fresh and timeless made it violently relistenable. I played it all the time. It’s still one of Jenny’s favorite albums and at least once a month I’ll catch her singing “Get Away.” It was a special sort of record, and to say I’d been waiting on pins and needles for the band’s follow up is probably an understatement. Finally, Glow & Behold dropped and after one listen I was baffled. This is not Yuck.

I listened a few more times before doing some digging. How could a band who totally knocked me on my ass the first time around churn out something so drab? Where Yuck was inspired by ratty indie rock, Glow & Behold seemed to be a guided tour of the 80s indie music of the British Isles minus turning the songs of Cocteau Twins, My Bloody Valentine and Teenage Fanclub into something original and producing straight up rip offs instead. Somehow I missed the news that singer/guitarist Daniel Blumberg left the band and guitarist Max Bloom had taken over on vocals. Maybe the band didn’t know that there would be such a huge difference between Blumberg and Bloom, but I gotta think that if they had known what their sophomore LP would sound like, they would have at least had the courtesy to change their name.

Glow & Behold is easier to swallow now that I know Blumberg isn’t involved. It’s easy to think that it’s some band that coincidentally shares the same band name as Yuck. It’s not a bad album if I think of it that way, and I don’t have to feel that little dagger in my heart when a band I love and champion crashes and burns on their next album. There’s just something embarrassing about the fact that the title track sounds exactly like a mashup of the Teenage Fanclub songs "Guiding Star" and "December" and it’s like “come on guys, this is the TITLE TRACK.” It’s a good enough track, but so wholly derivative that it’s like why bother? It even totally works as a 6-plus minute track because the breakdowns have these nice horn and guitar bits, but still. There is no reason to listen to this when you can just put on Bandwagonesque.

I tried to hide my worry when I heard the album’s leadoff single “Rebirth.” The warped guitars are straight up Heaven or Las Vegas and Bloom’s falsettoed vocals are about the polar opposite of Elizabeth Fraser’s. It’s flat and lifeless. It’s heartbreaking. The strange thing is that the only song Bloom sang on Yuck’s debut was “Operation” which was one of my favorite songs on the record. That song encapsulates all the vibrancy, all of the raw energy that made Yuck more than the sum of their shoegaze steeped influences and something wholly worthwhile, admirable, and a total blast to listen to. The music on Glow & Behold is all superbly executed, and that’s part of the problem. This thing sounds slick and glossy. The last one (which was recorded in Bloom’s bedroom) sounded like a paper shredder. While it’s not fair to knock a band for taking advantage of newfound resources, it is fair to take the piss out of a band that very obviously isn’t the band you signed up for. Glow & Behold is nothing but false advertising.

"Glow & Behold"

Teenage Fanclub - "Guiding Star"

Teenage Fanclub - "December"

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