The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


Yuck Isobel George , March 2nd, 2011 11:39

In June, Simon Reynolds will publish his new book Retromania, a study of whether our compulsion for repackaging popular culture's past has left us with nothing but archive-print wrapping round an empty box where a brain should be.

I don't know what his conclusions are, but I wish the tome was out already, if only so I could scrumple up its worthy pages and stuff them down my abused ear-canals in order to block out Yuck's debut album. Leaving aside just for now the fact that I hated this kind of Lemonheads-lite, floral-dressed, clompety-booted, neurotic ninny inanity the first time round, I have absolutely no idea how anyone could be arsed to expend the (admittedly small) effort it takes to produce such a pointless photocopy. If the original 90s incarnation ignited the evolutionary instinct to stamp out such weaklings for the good of the gene pool, its revival as little more than a stylistic scaffold on which to hang the words 'scuzzy' like a plaid shirt on an shop-window dummy is enough to make an Xfm DJ turn Taxi Driver.

The studied Lou Barlow listlessness of 'Suck', the sludgy, half-speed Gish-era Pumpkins trudge of 'Rubber'..., the Evan Dando navel-gazing of 'Shook Down'… it is the sound of quite unbelievable laziness. Not 'slackerdom': laziness. "Trying to make it through the wall" Daniel Blumberg repeats ad infinitum through the album's second track, a token gesture at gumption. Success seems unlikely given that his only tools to complete the task seem to be the chisel of irritation and the hammer of petulant, adenoidal whine.

It's the tameness that tires the most; lauded as 'lo fi', and indeed self-produced and recorded at guitarist Max Bloom's parents house Yuck nevertheless conjures the sound of a switch marked 'fuzzy' being flicked, about as murky and abrasive as a polished pound coin. You can question the reasoning of other lo-fi revivalists, but at least the likes of Times New Viking, Jay Reatard and Psychedelic Horseshit had the decency to sound a little scary. I never actually thought I'd have need of the phrase 'it's like shitgaze never happened', but this is the juncture we find ourselves at.

Does it matter that their inspirations are retrogressive, as long as it sounds good? There are some well-crafted tunes in here; not even I can find it in my bitter heart to hate the Nickelodeon-Dinosaur Jr bounce of 'Georgia' or the honey-toned amble of 'Suicide Policeman'. Well, yes, it does, because spunking talent down a rose-tinted cistern like this is unforgivable. It matters because there's absolutely no way this music could say anything to anyone about their lives in 2011. Try playing this album over news footage of the student riots and it will seems as appropriate as Mungo Jerry's 'In The Summertime'.

If you don't think it's important that music can say something to people about their lives, fine, but this website probably isn't for you. This is not the tired old argument about whether genuine innovation is possible. It doesn't matter if you haven't found a new note between B and C if you fuse the atoms of your influences together in configurations that release new energy, or if you have the pure charisma, the human connection to reanimate old forms with new life. Yuck do not have the strength or the wit to do either. Listening to them is the musical equivalent of going to work in Belle Epoque fancy dress 'just because it looks nice - that's all that matters'.

The band do nothing to help their case; surly in interviews and cagey about influences, retro, derivation. “We only really care about melody” Blumberg has stated. Not good enough - there's a lot of people out there with melodies, sunshine, and a band with the presumption to make an album that sounds like this in this day and age and thrust it before the world's approval damn well better have thought hard about what they're doing and why. Especially if two of them used to be in Cajun Fucking Dance Party.