It feels like every year a band leaps to the top of blogs and music websites simply by sounding like indie rock from years past. They're not part of any trends, new genres, or approaches to making music. They pretty much just sound like indie rock bands from the 80s or 90s, whether leaning more toward the literate/ironic Pavement, the loose and unhinged mid-to-late 90s Modest Mouse, the noisy guitar workouts of Sonic Youth, or the gold standard loud/quiet/loud dynamics of the Pixies. Granted there are other influences at play, but the end result is usually the same: bands with enjoyable, often exceptionally good, debut records who then fail to deliver the magic again and never get out of a rut. I like to call it Tapes N' Tapes Syndrome.
Yuck get around this problem, at least on their debut, by recording a fairly diverse set of songs, borrowing from many influences but never ripping anyone off. This means that while they sound like the more punishing side of Dinosaur Jr. on 'Get Away' and sludgy album closer 'Rubber', they don't sound like a Dinosaur Jr. cover band. Furthermore, the variety means you can't pin a single band to Yuck's sound, and you can't really label them anything other than the basic 'indie rock' because they range from noise-pop to jangly guitar pop. If you had only heard 'Suicide Policeman', for example, you would think Yuck sound like Yo La Tengo at their most mellow; hell, this track even has what is either marimbas or a xylophone and some horns on it. Then there's 'Suck', which has Built To Spill written all over it, down to the plaintive slide guitar sound. Yet in all these cases Yuck are not copycats so much as they are evoking the sound of other beloved bands.
However, there's a million different bands who sound like other bands, so what precisely makes Yuck so special and one of those most recent darlings of the indie press? It all comes down to songwriting and confidence. Oddly, then, watching live clips of Yuck on YouTube, you would never connect them with this record. They look and sound unrehearsed and nervous; their baby faced frontman looks like he had to fake sick from high school in order to be able to play the show. Give a listen to the album and they're practically a different band, brimming with hooks and self-assurance. Even if they're working inside well established sounds, Yuck are capable enough songwriters to stick out from the crowd.
Yuck won't win any points for originality, and there are going to be those longtime indie rock fans who feel like they're pandering to an audience with this album. As for me, I'm not sure whether what I'm about to say is praise or condemnation, but I'm going to say it anyway: Yuck is the kind of record I want to criticize for sounding too much like other bands yet it does it so well that it almost seems original. And besides, I've listened to this record too many times to talk myself into knocking off a star or two because it sounds like other music I love.
5 Poorly Drawn Stars Out Of 5