Review Summary: Sort of like why the 'Rugrats' and 'Hey Arnold' movies weren't quite as good as the shows that inspired them.
You and I, we’ve seen this before. We saw it when it was more angular, more hip and had a more charismatic singer, but it’s essentially the same shtick. Ten years ago, Yuck were The Strokes, summoning the spirits of Television and CBGB’s, so in touch with what was in vogue that they essentially recorded the same album of pristine post-punk twice. Or, if you were among the more introspective crowd at the turn of the millennium, Yuck were Interpol, inescapably linked by critics and fans to Joy Division via their gloomy monotony and upscale attire.
Now, Yuck are Yuck, the revivalist rock band of the moment citing what was cool in the late 80s as their aforementioned predecessors cited what was cool in the late 70s. If The Strokes are New York bars, wrist accessories and Stratocasters, Yuck are basement couches, denim jackets and Jaguars. Their guitars are loud and fuzzy, their lyrics are sweet albeit naïve, and overall, they’re simple, with songs about love in a base sort of way, the subject consciously muddied into song titles like “Suicide Policeman” and “Holing Out,” cute plays on words that don’t make much sense. To match, their music sounds as if it was written quickly, dressed with perfectly consonant chord changes and guitar solos that rehash the vocal melody of its song. But while it sounds effortless, I wouldn’t call Yuck lazy. Because Yuck have a tangible knack for melody, their debut is nothing if not irresistibly catchy.
Sure, it can be stupid catchy, as is the case in “The Wall,” a brilliant track in itself, but the hidden diamonds of Yuck
are the subtle bits that stick, like the guitar line of “Stutter” or the instrumental build of “Rose Gives a Lily.” The other end of their binary (and yes, it is a binary, made obvious by the loud-soft-loud sequencing of the tracks) are Yuck’s immediate rockers, all tight and raucous, if kind of indistinguishable from each other. Of these, “Get Away” and “Operation” are best, probably simply by virtue of being the first and last uptempo songs on the album. The song that probably brought you here is the album's oddball closer, “Rubber,” a slow burning ballad with a more distinct debt to the early days of shoegaze than Yuck
has let on up till this point. It’s understandably generated the most buzz, as it recalls My Bloody Valentine almost to a fault, but as a two chord drone fest, it’s one of the record’s toughest songs to love. While the majority of Yuck
aims only to please, “Rubber” shoots for higher territory and only kind of hits because of its ambition. It’s supposed to be heady, but placed at the end of an album of heart, it both achieves the proper closure and is unapproachable.
Perhaps “Rubber” doesn’t sit quite right because everywhere else, Yuck quite consciously avoid engaging intellectually. Their public image, relevant to their music because of how inherently tied the two are, illustrates this. Their bass player is a Japanese girl with bangs that cover her eyes, their drummer is an afro-sporting goof, and their guitar players both look and play with the same grungy affect. These guys are doing the 90s and doing them hard, living the nostalgia they invite on record. And while it’s nice to hear this sound and see this band recreate something we would’ve conceivably loved hearing on mixtapes with Pavement and Sonic Youth, it’s what ultimately makes them feel slight. A great rock band, no doubt, but slight. They’re not really revolutionary because there’s nothing that ambitious in them. Rather they’re content being a light Dinosaur Jr., making pleasant, noisy indie rock with tambourines and static that’s more an aural treat than a mental stimulant. And as is often the case with a revivalist act like Yuck, their homage to their elders, solid though it is, ultimately worsens the hunger for the real thing instead of satisfying it.