Songwriter for British band Yuck found his groove after losing his singer
This time two years ago, the members of British indie rock four-piece Yuck were riding high on a wave of critical acclaim, which they captured with their debut album—a set of ramshackle tunes influenced by ’90s shoegaze and lo-fi fuzzy garage rock.
The self-titled record was filled with songs built upon churning guitar dirges and simple, lyrical constructions. On "The Wall," for instance, then-singer Daniel Blumberg sings mostly the same line over and over again. The band was applauded by the hipster blogosphere and mainstream music publications alike.
And then Blumberg split from the group, allegedly on less than amicable terms.
For many bands, that would have been it. But not for Yuck. In fact, it seems that the departure of Blumberg was liberating for the band's new frontman, Max Bloom, as it gave him more creative freedom than he had previously enjoyed when sharing songwriting credits with the group's former singer.
"I did pretty much everything," Bloom says, speaking about the group's new album, Glow and Behold, via Skype. And it shows. In many ways, Yuck has become a brand new band.
Whereas the first album felt like a "jigsaw puzzle not quite fitting together," as Bloom describes it, Glow feels much more cohesive—all part of the same creative vision.
The new record is also much fuller, sonically speaking. Whereas Yuck's 2011 effort was self-produced and tracked in Bloom's bedroom using the bare-bones recording software Garage Band and only a handful of amps and instruments, Glow and Behold was recorded in professional studios with producer Chris Coady, who has also worked with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, TV on the Radio, and Wavves.
Bloom says that the music on Yuck’s first album lent itself to the bedroom setting. "There's a lot to be said for limitations when you're recording," he says. "When you have certain limitations, you can use that to make something really cool."
With Glow and Behold, he says that he and his bandmates wanted to lift those limitations. "We felt this set of songs deserved to be recorded in a studio environment," Bloom says. "We wanted it to be more flowing and a whole piece."
Glow takes wider dynamic swings than the band's self-titled album. Many tracks have sparkly acoustic strumming underneath the also-bright electric guitar tones, lending a distinctive British sheen to the album's 11 tracks. Bloom attributes some of the album's brighter textures to Coady, who used keyboards, reverb and other studio tricks to fill in some of the spaces that were once jagged edges.
"The first album was such a short intense burst of energy," Bloom says reflecting on his band's debut and comparing it to Glow and Behold. "I wanted to make something that was a little bit more thought-out and melodic."
Where the band's debut was reminiscent of the roughly hewn ’90s rock, like Pavement, Glow is fuzzier around the edges, with warm, Dinosaur Jr.-esque guitars and cooler Radio Dept. atmospherics.
Bloom's voice and lyrical style also creates a different feel on the new record. His vocal technique is less nasally and smoother overall than Blumberg's, and he tends to be more verbose than the band's former singer—which is something he says he didn't really plan, but stumbled upon in the process of writing.
"It's relatively new to me," Bloom says of writing lyrics. "It's always been quite easy for me to express myself through music, but I've never needed to write words to my music." He says the result was a "deeply personal" album, lyrically.
Some critics have reacted negatively to the changes Bloom has made—with one writer from the notoriously unforgiving music website Pitchfork saying that the band has lost much of what made it so vital.
It's true, the Yuck of Glow and Behold has a different feel than the Yuck of 2011. But comparing the two albums may ultimately be unfair. Though the core of the band has remained intact, it might be best to view the band's current incarnation as a reincarnation.
Yuck plays at 9 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 30 at Don Quixote’s, 6275 Hwy 9, Felton. Tickets are $15/adv, $20/door. For more information, call 335-2800.
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