Where is the line between homage and shameless stealing? London’s Yuck first appeared in 2011 with their crunchy shoegazy grunge-revival inspired self-titled album, most notable for the solid gold alt rock anthem ‘Get Away’. Since then the band have released a second album (Glow and Behold, which featured the delightful ‘Lose My Breath’) and an EP (Southern Skies) of similar quality but lesser fanfare. Half a decade between their debut and now, Yuck are about to release their third album, Stranger Things: the most varied, ambitious and familiar-sounding record of their career thus far.
Starting off with the riffy anthemic ‘Hold Me Closer’ with its allusions to Built to Spill’s ‘Car’ (“Wanna see you in the reflections of my dreams”), Yuck immediately brandish their musical magpie-ism – taking moments, influences and sounds from other bands and songs, then stirring them into their tasty alternative rock stew. This is no new development, as the band showcased an impressive knowledge of Elliott Smith-isms on past single ‘Southern Skies’, while ‘Get Away’ mimicked Sonic Youth at their most straight forward. On Stranger Things, Yuck extend their reference points further than before, taking in Teenage Fanclub (on the title track), Cocteau Twins (‘Like a Moth’, ‘Swirling’), their beloved My Bloody Valentine (‘Yr Face’), while still having time to borrow melodically from Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Little Lies’ (‘As I Walk Away’).
One of the truly visceral aspects of Yuck is their beautiful merging of loud and quiet dynamics; the aforementioned ‘As I Walk Away”s fragile almost-pop melody is, at its peak, only moments away from being swept away by a torrent of swirling distorted guitars. At their most concise, and commercially-minded – like on the singles ‘Hold Me Closer’, ‘Cannonball’ and the outstanding ‘Hearts in Motion’ – Yuck manage to craft catchy, chewy bubblegum alt rock songs, like a more abrasive, musically dexterous 90’s Weezer. But the moments that truly stick with the listener are on the more ambitious album tracks: the hauntingly harmonious “I hate myself” sequence on the title track, the sighing post-chorus guitars on ‘Like a Moth’, the clobbering final chorus of ‘I’m Okay’, the achingly drawn out chorus-melody-mimicking solo coda that ends ‘Down’.
Stranger Things concludes with the colossal ‘Yr Face’ with its waves of reverbed guitars crashing, swooning, shimmering throughout its considered 6 minute plus run-time, the Kevin Shields worship-level dangerously high, but infused with bits of Smashing Pumpkins’ ‘Soma’ as well as Yuck’s own brand of impressive noise. As much as a band is a sum of its influences, sometimes it doesn’t matter that one can pick out the individual source elements, as long as it does something new with the material. Are The Matrix, Pulp Fiction or Shaun of the Dead inferior films compared to the hundreds they pastiche? Not at all, in fact sometimes they better their influences. As the saying goes: “Talent borrows. Genius steals”, and by that meter Yuck are genui-nely talented.