I know, this review is considerably late, since this self-titled debut by the English indie rock quartet Yuck has been out since February. Still, I figured that we should spend the last few weeks of the year featuring as many of 2011's best releases as we could, and this modest collection of guitar fuzz-laden melodic numbers is definitely one of them.
For starters, I was surprised to learn that this band hailed from London, because their record certainly doesn't sound like any British act I know, except maybe Teenage Fanclub. Opening track "Get Away" could very well be mistaken for a lost Yo La Tengo outtake, but with loud, Dinosaur Jr guitars. But all the possible comparisons notwithstanding, it's an extremely likable song for its melodies and arrangement alone, and somehow it instantly becomes one of the best songs you've heard all year. The band brings the wall of fuzz up a notch on "The Wall" and "Holing Out," as singer/guitarist Daniel Blumberg, guitarist Max Bloom, bassist Mariko Doi, and drummer Jonny Rogoff seem to utilize every trick they learned from Sonic Youth, Archers Of Loaf, Superchunk, and pretty much every other American indie rock luminary with an offset-shaped guitar and a distortion pedal (or two).
The twelve tracks on Yuck don't sound at all that different from each other formula-wise, but it's on the slower, mellower tracks that the quartet truly shines. "Shook Down" is a gorgeous ballad that seems to channel longtime NYC Fil-Am indie act Versus' softer material, but with a lovely chorus (complete with a well-placed B7 chord) that perhaps only songwriters Blumberg and Bloom could have come up with. "Suicide Policeman" is even more languid and touching, while "Stutter" employs another Yo La Tengo-ish drone (YLT fans, think "Little Eyes") while Bloom coaxes brief passages of subtle noise from his guitar and effects boxes every so often to keep things interesting. "Sunday" is probably the only track on the record that betrays Yuck's British-ness; for some reason it reminds me of The Stone Roses' "(Song For My) Sugar Spun Sister," but that's definitely not a bad thing.
Most certainly, Yuck are a band that did their research despite their young age, constructing songs out of a blueprint laid out mostly by '90s indie rock and alt-rock (the credible kind, like Nirvana and the Lemonheads, at least). This, however, seems to pose a crucial question: do I dig Yuck only because they sound like the bands that my thirty-something self grew up listening to? I would like to think otherwise, because Yuck's self-titled debut really is that good. I don't believe it would take a thorough knowledge of Pavement's entire discovery to fully appreciate this record, because really, there are fewer things that make a rock song more effective than a good melody and a nice, fuzz-laced major-seventh chord. Yuck is filled to the brim with such things, and to be honest, I have not listened to any other record more times this year. (Fat Possum)
Yuck will be performing at the Laneway Festival in Fort Canning Park, Singapore, on February 12, 2012. Check this site for more details.