When Yuck released their debut self-titled album in 2011, their lo-fi, 90s influenced sound was puzzlingly refreshing in its complete disregard of any real contemporary influence. Creating something that sounded like it belonged in the past was what made Yuck stick out in 2011 and it seems that for Stranger Things they have held tight to this definitive sound. With much personal struggle and line-up changes since their 2009 beginnings, retaining their sound throughout a tumultuous on and off seven year period is an undeniably commendable feat.
The low, droning guitar riff that kicks off first track ‘Hold Me Closer’ is sure to bring a smile and perhaps even a sense of relief to any loyal Yuck fans – they sound just like they always have. Combining their raw sound with a delicate measure of pop influence renders ‘Hold Me Closer’ a song that immediately reminds you of an American coming-of-age soundtrack. Perhaps it’s the heavy guitar riffs combined with edgy, attitude-ridden vocals – who knows – but this is undeniably a track that awakens the inner seventeen year old in us all.
Although Stranger Things is brimming with Yuck’s signature catchy guitar there are clear moments throughout the album where a more mellow, relaxed tone is approached. This is apparent from the onset of ‘Like a Moth’. While slowing the pace of the record through gentler melodies and vocals, lo-fi influence is still expertly maintained.
Likewise, on ‘I’m OK’ – a track admitted by front-man Max Bloom to be a very personal song – their approach changes throughout from fast-paced and heavy to uncharacteristically light and acoustically mellow. When you think the track is complete it kicks off again with more energy than before – some kind of heavy handed metaphor? Maybe.
However, the standout Stranger Things moment is ‘As I Walk Away’. Bassist Mariko Doi steps in for vocals here and her smooth, melodic voice is captivating, leaving you hanging on to each word. Filled with slow, dreamy acoustic guitar that ebbs and flows throughout, ‘As I Walk Away’ is at moments reminiscent of My Bloody Valentine – a welcome influence very much in line with Yuck’s raw sound but one that leans towards a different, more experimental direction, begging the question, are Yuck going to develop this more in the future?
An enjoyable record, Stranger Things manages to balance classic Yuck with a little bit of welcome experimentation, and, by hinting at a sound that seems to be beginning to evolve, the album seems to be an exploration of simultaneously holding on to the past whilst seeing what else works. From the hints we hear, it very much seems to work for them.