Back in February 2011, which unlike your correspondent you probably don’t remember for Norwich City beginning a charge that would take them to a second successive promotion, Yuck’s self-titled debut album was reviewed by DiS stalwart Billy Hamilton, who summed up the early-Nineties alt rock-aping quartets first effort thusly: 'Had they furrowed their own pathway their future could have been assured. Instead, the past may be all Yuck have to play with.' A scan of the comments from the ever-fervent DiS community about the review reveals about a 60/40 split betwixt those believing Yuck’s way with a melody more than made up for their fascination with all things flannel-clad and those subscribing to Billy’s view. For what it’s worth, this reviewer fell on the former side of the fence.
Fast forward to the present day and with Yuck’s second album landing, those on both sides of said fence would have been expecting to scrutinise it for signs they either remain half-slumped in the primordial slacker soup from which they first emerged or have evolved beyond it into something bigger and bolder. However, the goalposts shifted somewhat after the band announced in April that frontman Daniel Blumberg had left to 'focus on other things', leaving guitarist Max Bloom to take over lead vocals and Ed Hayes - formerly a barman at The Macbeth, the London pub where Yuck played a three-night residency last month - filling Bloom’s boots.
This changing of the guard has seen a - perhaps unavoidable - shift in style for Yuck. While the keening, disenfranchised yowl of Blumberg fitted the fuzzy, lackadaisical likes of ‘Get Away’ and ‘Operation’ like a glove, it’s more than likely Bloom’s reedy, breathy tones would be suffocated by a similar sound. They do the job on ‘Middle Sea’ though - Glow & Behold’s most Yuck-like moment, but if you want to take anything off the latter as a starting point, it should be the lilting ‘Suicide Policeman’ and the jangle of ‘Georgia’, both of which feature Bloom and bassist Mariko Doi singing. A mixture of those sounds is best heard on Glow & Behold in ‘Out Of Time’, which mixes plaintive vocals with shimmering guitar, delicate glockenspiel and haunting wails courtesy of Mercury Rev circa Deserter’s Songs.
‘Somewhere’ takes it a step further, where Bloom mournfully sings a coda of “Call off the end / I can’t pretend / I don’t want to be in love anymore” over an elegant melody and coos from Doi. It ain’t gonna get people throwing pissy lager around at a toilet venue near you, but it’s more captivating than anything from their debut album. Sadly, this isn’t the case elsewhere - the hazy, circular riff of ‘Rebirth’ epitomises a song that simply chases its own tail, while ‘Memorial Fields’ is almost too polite to ask you to take any notice of it, as if any sense of Yuck doing what they wanted and not giving a fuck if Charlie Chinstroker decided it sounded like something released on SST in 1986 had departed with Daniel.
Thankfully the closing triumvirate of tracks - we’re glossing over the instrumental ‘Twilight In Maple Shades (Chinese Cymbals)’ so we can use ‘triumvirate’ here - show this isn’t the case. ‘Nothing New’ marks something of a departure for Yuck, using organ, horns and Bloom’s unexpectedly assured croon to create something almost baroque. ‘How Does It feel’ teams an Elliott Smith-ish vocal with a soaring chorus that’s part-Neil Young, part-the aforementioned Mercury Rev and sees Yuck Mk II begin to move away from Yuck Mk I. The title track is, to cut a long story short, Super Furry Animals sans techno freakouts taking on ‘Dear Prudence’, with the melodic squall that sees out the album perhaps showcasing both iterations of the band.
With Glow & Behold, Yuck have shown they can be more than the grunge gropers Billy Hamilton billed them as and have survived saying goodbye to Blumberg - a situation that could yet see them become an altogether different and far more interesting band. However, it’s hard to shake the feeling we’re not back where we started - Billy may say, while Yuck have proved their influences are more diverse than their debut album demonstrated, they are still derivative, while this DiS-er believes Glow & Behold offers the promise that, next time out, they will grow to fit their own skin. See you back here around April 2016.
6Kelvin Goodson's Score