In 2011, Yuck were a critical darling, melding together the sounds of My Bloody Valentine, Pavement, and other indie rock essentials into something both refreshingly nostalgic and deftly handled. Two years later, the band is already in the midst of a major transitional stage. In the summer of this year, frontman and co-founder Daniel Blumberg left the band. He recently released an album with a new project, Hebronix, which was technically his fifth “debut” album. Meanwhile, Yuck have handed the vocal reins over to Max Bloom, the band’s other co-founder. Yet Yuck don’t merely possess a new vocal style; they’ve also made pretty staggering changes to the basic compositions of their songs. Although the shoegaze is still there, the band dabbles far more in ballads, dialing down the energy in exchange for a far more relaxed style.
The difference is seen right away. The band’s 2011 record came screaming at you with a flurry of guitars and Blumberg’s vocals slowly coming in. Glow and Behold possesses a far more understated opening with the fully instrumental “Sunrise in Maple Shade” easy the listener into the album. It’s a sure sign of things to come, with much of the album sharing many of this opener’s structural components. There are some horns, some light percussion, and a general sense of ease. Although this structure suits the band in places, it largely saps the album of the energetic boost it needs. Many of the songs on the album’s first half are fairly underwhelming. “Out of Time” is a color-by-numbers ballad, and “Memorial Fields” only real point of interest resides in its fairly interesting chord progressions at the tail end. “Nothing New” again sees the band slowing things down for the sake of Bloom’s vocals. It’s perfectly solid and one of the best tracks on the album’s second half.
Repeatedly the band misses the erratic, free-wheeling nature that characterized their first record. “How Does It Feel” gives the album a bit of a jolt and proves that Bloom can handle such an uptick, and the album’s finale, “Glow and Behold” is an all-out triumph. In each case, the band realizes their potential by essentially throwing a lot of stuff of at the wall and seeing what sticks. They’re kitchen-sink songs; even if they’re a bit messy, they work. Seeing where Yuck goes from here as a project will be intriguing. Although there will be people who enjoy this album, it certainly won’t be for the reasons they loved the debut. That unpredictable quality is gone and what comes across is something that feels emotionally vacant. Not all is lost, but it’s certainly an album that feels like more of a stylistic stepping stone rather than something truly memorable.