Yuck, Yuck

Matthew Fritch

By Matthew Fritch

on 02.11.11 in Reviews
A compelling tug-of-war between brute guitar force and vulnerable-sounding vocals

The early word on Yuck makes it seem as if the London-based band of 20-somethings only has Dirty thoughts on its Green Mind. While those albums (by Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr., respectively — just in case you missed a couple of Lollapaloozas in the early '90s) are alt-rock classics, riff-by-numbers revivalism is always kind of disgusting. Given the grotesque illustrations that adorn Yuck's album and, ahem, seven-inch, along with the band's first-name-only policy (singer/guitarist Daniel, drummer Jonny, guitarist Max and bassist Mariko), things aren't looking too progressive on the outside of the group's self-titled debut. Yet even as a greased-up, J Mascis-style guitar line snakes its way into opener "Get Away," you can't resist its appeal. Quite a bit more melodic than its noise-driven influences, Yuck tends to bruise its songs with bursts of dissonance and feedback (as on the "Teenage Riot"-ing "Operation"), perhaps to hide the alluring pop band lurking beneath. Daniel and Max, it turns out, are former members of teen-Britpop band Cajun Dance Party; the association seems to be one they'd rather live down. Or, as Daniel sings on "Suck": "I've had enough of being young and free." It's the tug-of-war between brute guitar force and vulnerable-sounding vocals that makes Yuck so compelling. With Daniel's sister Ilana on harmony vocals, Yuck's ability to veer from the pouty acoustic strums of "Suicide Policeman" into the punkish "Holing Out" more closely recalls the agile talents of Yo La Tengo or the under-recognized Comas. Yuck will be scrutinized for all its supposed influences, but the unexamined album is seldom worth listening to. In an indie-rock landscape prepossessed by whimsical instrumentation and high-minded concepts, Yuck isn't so much a remembrance of the '90s as a reinvigoration of the idea that cool-sounding guitars can provide all the thrills you need.