Musicians who are a little too blatant with their influences tend to run the risk of a critical mauling, and rightly so: we all like originality and nobody wants to listen to pale hero-imitation when we can revisit the real thing. However, sometimes you’ll get a band who manage to take a fairly derivative blueprint and add enough conviction, vibrancy or honest-to-god hooks that it’s impossible to resist. In the case of Yuck, the aesthetic is vintage late 80’s/early 90’s alt-rock (Dinosaur Jr, Sonic Youth, Pavement) leavened with a mellower side that’s been likened to Teenage Fanclub and Galaxie 500. The result is surprisingly fresh-sounding, with their early demos and singles building up buzz to the extent that they were included on the short-list for BBC’s Sound of 2011.
Their first full-length begins with the excellent ‘Get Away’, which sounds like it could have been transposed from Siamese Dream-era Smashing Pumpkins: if it’s familiar, it’s also infectious, carried off with just the right amount of authenticity. ‘Holing Out’ is based around a fuzzy, Mascis-inspired riff and a chorus that has a touch of the Freakscenes about it, while ‘Georgia’ is a ragged lo-fi wonder with lilting, melodic vocals and production values that teeter on the brink of collapse. On the other side of the coin, the drowsy romanticism of ‘Stutter’ and ‘Sunday’ show that the band have an ear for a tune as well as for vintage guitar tones.
The final two tracks take things up another level: ‘Rose Gives A Lily’ and ‘Rubber’ mightn’t exactly push the originality barrier any further (the former is Sonic Youth in haunting guitar-jam mode, the latter Yo La Tengo in epic blow-out album closer mode), but both add the record a nice amount of shade and sprawl. Yuck definitely won’t be the most inventive thing you’ll hear all year, but next time you feel like giving Slanted and Enchanted or Bug a spin, you may find yourself reaching for this instead.