Yuck: Playing on Prefix

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Playing on Prefix is a feature on KCRW’s Music Blog in which writers from the eclectic music site Prefix hip you to what’s coming out of their computer speakers each week

Yuck by Jon Bergman
Yuck by Jon Bergman

A conversation about Yuck can easily devolve into a game of spot-the-’90s-influence. (“Sunday” sounds just like those early Velocity Girl singles! “Georgia” is like My Bloody Valentine minus the artsiness plus Dinosaur Jr. minus the guitar heroics! The Weakend EP is oddly (and probably not intentionally) reminiscent of Ben Folds!) In interviews, the U.K. band has done nothing but encourage this game, dropping names like Red House Painters and Teenage Fanclub, and claiming the ’90s as music’s greatest decade. But in actuality,Yuck’s music isn’t beholden to any one band or style. It’s a fuzzy, loving tribute to that last analog era, a time when, for better or for worse, the divide between the “mainstream” and the “indie rockers” was a lot clearer.

The members of Yuck are all around 20 years old. They’re kids who remember–albeit hazily–a time before Facebook and iPhones, but who spent their formative years with all the trappings of the Internet age. It’s unlikely that they actually bought their copies of You’re Living All Over Me and Loveless, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be nostalgic for an era when they would have. That nostalgia manifests itself both in their music (lo-fi, guitar-centric) and the ways they release it. The Weakend EP, for example, came out on a limited run of 100 cassettes (although, fittingly enough, most people probably heard it via MP3 blogs).

That EP — a sparse, haunting collection of piano-led ballads released under the Yu(c)k moniker — immediately puts to rest any fears that these guys were hiding lackluster melodies or vocals under all that noise. (It also carries on the band’s odd fixation with weekend-related puns; see “Sunday”‘s refrain: “Sunday you’re gonna take me back”). Their other, noisier stuff might be hard for some to get into (although it will probably be the perfect comfort food for a whole lot of other people), but Weakend’s four songs are universally affecting. A song like “Daughter” could make mothers and record store clerks cry in equal measure. On Yuck‘s early singles, it often sounded like vocalist Daniel Blumberg’s microphone was broken; here his voice, along with his ringing piano and the requisite tape hiss, are front-and-center, and it makes for some arresting listening.

It’s a shame that Creation Records is gone, as Yuck would’ve been a natural fit for that label. Instead, this past October, Yuck signed to Fat Possum, meaning they’re now labelmates with Dinosaur Jr. (It all comes full circle in the indie-music universe, doesn’t it?)

Stream Yuck’s “Rubber”:

They’ve released the “Rubber” single in advance of their debut album, a seven-and-a-half-minute track so sludgy that it takes a couple of listens to register as the slow-burning guitar epic that it is. It’s yet another step forward for a band that — without having even released a proper album — just keeps getting better and better.

–Daniel Kolitz