By Ben Waldman
When Yuck burst onto the scene with their self-titled debut, there was hardly a review that didn’t hail the band as the reincarnation of Pavement. Yuck marked one of the most solid and assured entrances into the indie rock world in years.
2013s Glow and Behold signaled a shift to a more ambient sound, and it was also generally well received. But critics have been quick to pan Yuck’s latest album, viewing it as a step back. This type of view doesn’t give the band enough credit. Looking at an album as a segment in a collection instead of a unique piece of art restricts the reach of the music. Stranger Things is obviously different than the first two albums in Yuck’s discography. It takes more risks, and shows that the band is finding their strengths, building ably on the sound of Glow without disregarding the music that first got the band recognition as the rebirth of the 90s. Since 2011, Yuck has been through a lot. Original lead singer Daniel Blumberg left and Max Bloom, the lead guitarist, took over vocal duties. This album compensates for that by having longer guitar interludes, notably on “I’m OK.” The track spends about a minute and a half building to a cathartic finish with light guitar plucking. It’s in these moments when Yuck shines: the loudness of their quiet followed by the overwhelming power of their noise. “Yr Face” also fills its run time with similar build-up.
While Yuck is still embodied by 90s spirit, it’s about time that they stop being defined by critics by the band’s early influences. At certain points, Yuck sounds less like Pavement than does their contemporaries like DIIV or Girls. Listen to “As I Walk Away,” the seventh track on Stranger Things and try to tell me it doesn’t sound like Alvvays’ standout track “Party Police.”
The point is, though Yuck sounds somewhat different now than they did in 2011, they still sound great. And after all, is sameness and uniformity really a trait that any band should strive for? Consider Stranger Things for what it is: an album by a very good band trying to make music that feels different. If they wanted to sound the same as they did five years ago, or even three years ago, Yuck would have called their latest “Normal Things.” Embrace the strangeness.
(Mamé Records, yuck.bandcamp.com)