Label: Fat Possum
Nostalgia is a funny thing. The past seems to be divided firmly in two: the way things actually were, and the way people wish things were. And for someone who actually was a teenager during the ’90s, the current ’90s revival is certainly alarming. Tween blogging sensation Tavi Gevinson loves to opine about the genius of Courtney Love – cut to a vivid memory of me waiting for the junior high bus with my neighbor Nikki, who’s telling me all about Live Through This WHEN IT WAS NEW. Congratulations; we’re officially Old People.
Which brings us to Yuck, with their new album called Yuck. (Or, for the particularly adventurous, Yuck Yuck.) Yuck is all about the ’90s. Their debut for Fat Possum wears its influences proudly on its sleeve – while listening, visions of Pavement will dance in your head. But before you throw up your lighter know this – remember that thing I said about the divide between the way things really were and the way things people wish they were? This is in the latter category. Think of it like Crystal Pepsi. Looks like a ’90s record, tastes like a ’90s record, but something’s just…off.
Where Yuck falls short is that it doesn’t have the fire of those ’90s records we (and they) love so dearly. Half of the charm of those albums was always that exciting feeling of capturing lightning in a bottle; Yuck feels like the work of a band who is entirely comfortable in the studio. While comfort is a good thing, Yuck seems to lack spontaneity. Sure, the guitar sound on opener “Get Away” is crafted to be reminiscent of My Bloody Valentine, and My Bloody Valentine is great (!), but Yuck is no My Bloody Valentine. (To be fair, though, who is?) By so proudly declaring themselves ’90s devotees, they pigeonhole themselves into inevitable comparisons, most of which they’re not ready for yet.
Yuck certainly isn’t a dead end. There are a few good songs here and there, which unfortunately get buried in the sheer volume of the damn thing (12 songs, and not a single one under three minutes long). They save the best for last here – penultimate instrumental “Rose Gives A Lilly” has the kind of shimmering beauty that we in the ’90s had to usually turn to Mazzy Star for, and closer “Rubber” is fuzzed to death and has the euphoric, druggy sound of a party at 4 AM. These two tracks are the only ones who transcend all the nostalgic bullshit and actually capture the spirit of the ’90s – and they shine on their own merits, too. Elsewhere, the anthemic “Georgia” benefits from its bare-bones, rough and tumble arrangement, and features a great duel lead vocal from frontman Daniel Blumberg and backup singer/sister Ilana.
The bottom line here is that though Yuck is an enjoyable enough record, it ultimately proves itself to be too derivative. There’s nothing here you can’t find on the albums you probably already own. So, to quote another ’90s icon, whatever.
by Ashley Thiry