Yuck is a now-3-piece grunge rock band with members from UK, USA and Japan. If you’re saying “sorry, what!?”, I reacted the same when I first heard of them. The original line-up was formed in 2009 around singer/rhythm guitarist Daniel Blumberg and lead guitarist Max Bloom, both formerly in the British band Cajun Dance Party (whoever that is), after serentipitously meeting bassist Mariko Doi and drummer Jonny Rogoff whilst on a Middle Eastern adventure (or so the story goes). In true indie fashion, Yuck kept to their own devices, independently recording and releasing simple and catchy songs on their original bare-bones blog. In early 2011, Fat Possum Records caught on and signed them for a moderately-anticipated debut. I’m sure they were as surprised as anyone with what unfolded next.
Yuck’s self-titled debut stormed the castle with one of the most well-rounded, endlessly playable, and altogether enjoyable grunge rock / shoegaze albums around. Elaborating on their solid songwriting foundation, they garnished unanimous critical acclaim and before long were playing at packed-out festivals around the globe. The iTunes/deluxe editions of the release (already 12 songs) feature a total of 7 bonus tracks, plus enough free online B-side material floating around to easily sustain another full album.
A year of silence went by, then it happened. Yuck simultaneously elated and crushed souls by announcing their 2013 follow-up “Glow & Behold” (Yay!) written and recorded without singer/frontman Blumberg (NNNNOOOOOOO!!!). Known for his quirkiness and musical erraticism, Blumberg has released 5 or 6 albums in about as many projects / monikers, and he apparently has decided to leave Yuck and record / tour as his current solo act “Hebronix”.
Bloom admirably stepped up to the plate and took over on vocal and full songwriting duty, but it obviously isn’t quite the same. I recognize that, technically, a singer is simply a member of the collective group, but since the advent of vocal-driven pop music like 200 years ago, they’re kind of important. The vast majority of modern-day listeners (myself included) are intimately tuned in to the vocal melodies, lyrics, appearance, and persona of the singer (and “leader” by default) of a band. So when a vocalist departs, I’m of the opinion that most bands are better off to get a new title and start fresh. But that’s just me.
I feel badly talking down at all to “Glow & Behold”, because it is actually a decent album with some excellent tunes to offer. Bloom has a distinctly different timbre and songwriting style than that created as a duo with Blumberg, giving rise to a familiar-meets-novel medium. The instrumentation has deviated from muddy, fuzzed-out grunge, to a more refined, polished indie pop. Unfortunately, being in the shadow of their amazing debut, “Glow & Behold” is overall about half as good. As is Blumberg’s project. I dearly hope Daniel reconsiders his decision and comes back to Yuck, and with his touch-and-go demeanor, perhaps it isn’t unlikely. One can dream.
So to recap: Yuck are awesome, and their story is melodramatically tragic. The tracks from their 2011 self-titled debut + bonus material / B-sides of that era are some of the very best music I’ve heard in years. I’d start there. This year’s “Glow & Behold” is an overall agreeable and altogether sonically separate experience that sounds like a different band.
Favourite track: The Wall (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=glOfHOxdRCU)… a classic staple of Yuck’s sound with Blumberg at the helm.