What do you do if your singer leaves your band? Well, for four-piece London grunge throwbacks Yuck, the answer was simple: draft in your guitarist as frontman and record another album. When the band released their eponymous debut back in 2011 (it seems just like yesterday, doesn’t it?), they garnered critical and commercial acclaim as well as being dubbed the latest in a long line of Seattle descendants – mixing Pavement with Nirvana and a little pinch of Dinosaur Jr – which made for positive reading for the band.
Alas, seldom in life is anything simple. Frontman Daniel Blumberg left the band in April this year to “concentrate on other projects” (in other words, he got bored and started new band Hebronix) which left a void so large many thought Yuck would falter. It is to their eternal credit, however, that the band defied these expectations to further their career. Guitarist Max Bloom has resiliently stepped in on vocal duties on the band’s new record Glow & Behold, building on the band’s slacker-friendly sound with aplomb.
In truth, Glow & Behold does lack the incessant urgency of the band’s debut. It’s not a surprise, really. Blumberg was a powerful vocalist with a clear message and ability: Bloom, meanwhile, is a timid and reluctant frontman who does a useful job in an uncomfortable situation. The record is, in essence, a late companion to the debut album. However, there are certain shifts sonically with a more winter-inspired feel (hence the inclusion of “glow” in the title) with a lack of the aggressive raucousness of the band’s self-titled debut.
The opening salvo of ‘Sunrise In Maple Shade’ and ‘Out of Time’ suggests that things look bright for Yuck’s future. Defying the connotations of their name, the band deliver pleasing chiming alt-rock which is reminiscent of Real Estate whilst the latter merges Teenage Fanclub with circular guitar melodies. The whole record is produced with sheen, twinkling with tightness and crashing percussion. The sweeping, woozy guitar chords are infectious and all-encompassing, suggesting that the band’s future is not black without Blumberg. Sadly, for the majority of the record, the ideas are often too thinly spread and Glow & Behold often sounds like a run-of-the-mill grunge tribute act.
That’s not to say there aren’t further pleasing parts, though. ‘Lose My Breath’ sees Bloom tell us there’s “no need to find out who you are” over catchy, jangling indie guitar chords. Sadly, the rest of the album lacks this message. Too often the band fail to deliver their promises and build upon the band’s promising beginning, with ideas too thinly spread across the eleven tracks with forgettable instrumentals and unremarkable shoegaze melodies. The lyricism, in particular, is clunky and unrewarding – Bloom’s words often sound like he is a dyslexic younger brother of one of Ride’s members.
‘Memorial Fields’, for instance, is sickly with its nauseating psychedelic middle-eight before ‘Middle Sea’ attempts to pull you back in with a quickening in tempo. “I move away across the ocean” Bloom croons and, by the end of the song, you wouldn’t be at all bothered if he did. ‘Rebirth’ again touches lyrically on the sea – lamenting loneliness and suggesting Bloom doesn’t want love, he just “wants you”. The effect of these words sounds a bit like a lost Simple Plan song from 2005. ‘Somewhere’ is so landfill that you half-expect to see seagulls picking at it, before ‘Nothing New’ more than lives up to its name.
Thankfully, there are moments – albeit brief – that the band may survive Blumberg’s departure. Chiefly, ‘How Does It Feel?’ which merges a slacker-riff with trumpets but the banal lyricism holds the track back. ‘Twilight In Maple Shade’ lacks the aggressive nature of the tracks which made the band so well-loved two years ago: there’s nothing on the record which is in the same ballpark as ‘Chew’ or ‘The Wall’, for instance. Album closer and title-track ‘Glow & Behold’ is unexpected with its Cat Stevens-like guitar strum and the effect is pretty pleasing, if a little annoying that it took so long to find.
Glow & Behold will disappoint many. If you expected the band to grow since Blumberg’s unfortunate departure, then you will be brutally disappointed. The band’s ability to create accessible and radio-friendly hits remains up in the air as this record features too many unremarkable moments and run-of-the-mill sounds. The track is, in effect, the sound of a band mulling things over. If Yuck sort their heads and hearts out, they can still be a force to be reckoned with. Until then, shall we check out Hebronix?