Yuck – Glow & Behold

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Yuck, the London-based band that approaches lo-fi indie through a lens of fuzz and reverb, got its big break back in 2010-11, when it was basically all over the music press. Even though they were never exactly renowned for ground-breaking originality (having been described as heavily influenced by 90s bands like Dinosaur Jr and Built to Spill), they still were highly capable of producing punchy and infectious melodies, and touching quieter songs. Glow & Behold is Yuck’s second LP, and their first one since their original frontman, Daniel Blumberg, left the band.

Unfortunately, on this new album, the band sounds like a watered-down version of its older self; while still using reverb and fuzz (in a relatively controlled manner, in this release), most songs lack a catchy hook or melody line, with no track being particularly memorable, or personal enough to be relatable.

The record opener, ‘Sunrise In Maple Shade,’ is a slow, almost sleepy instrumental, with Dif-Juz aspirations that are not really fulfilled. While the track manages to build some moderate level of anticipation through repetition, a proper release, disappointingly, never arrives. Its sister track, ‘Twilight in Maple Shade (Chinese Cymbals),’ similarly lacks a high-energy release point.

This underestimation of the value of a substantial chorus is actually a systematic pattern. In many instances, choruses either sound more like an underwhelming second bridge (in ‘Lose My Breath’), or like generic anthemic-pop constructions (e.g. in the title-track ‘Glow & Behold’). This general lack of tension release through a chorus leaves the listener disappointed and somewhat baffled.

Style-wise, the album somewhat lacks coherence and a distinctive character (in other words, it is all over the place and nowhere in particular). The band somehow manages to combine elements as diverse (and conflicting) as a big-hit 80s pop aesthetic (think Wham!), a cliché notion of naïve indie sensitivity, which in practice sounds like an oversimplification of The Apples in stereo’s sound, uplifting horn sections, and R.E.M-style arpeggiated guitars. The latter is particularly observable in the track ‘Out Of Time,’ which for a second sounds somewhat like R.E.M.’s homonymous 1991 record Out of Time, but I suppose the name choice could be a coincidence. The title track, ‘Glow & Behold,’ is again particularly interesting, with respect to this mish-mash of styles and influences: the style of the chorus is reminiscent of the Jackson Five’s ‘Got To Be There’ chorus, and right afterwards the horns repeat the chorus (for added uplift), similarly to the Beatles’ ‘Hey Jude.’ Then, towards the end, there are some repetitive dissonant freak-outs, and finally the song ends on an abrupt cut-off.

Overall though, this is not a badly constructed or unpleasant album, and there are some interesting moments. However, the band’s signature energy and sincerity seems to have evaporated, which is a shame . There are no infectiously upbeat tracks like ‘Georgia,’ or any weird albeit catchy ones like ‘Coconut Bible,’ or any sweet touching ones like ‘Shook Down,or like ‘Suicide Policeman,’ or like the beautiful ‘Automatic’ from Daniel Blumberg’s quieter Yu(c)k sub-project.

Therefore, listeners (particularly fans of the band’s earlier material from 2010-11) may not find this LP as punchy, relatable, or even very engaging, compared to Yuck’s earlier releases.

5/10

Glow and Behold was released on Fat Possum on 1st October 2013.

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