Ed McMenamin reviews Yuck and J. Mascis.
Yuck channels so many recently re-emerged ‘90s indie-rock bands that, on first glance, its existence could appear either redundant or just lazy.
So do we need Yuck?
Of course we do. Twenty-year-olds have always been better at loud and brash guitar rock than the mortgaged set.
And as surprisingly good as the new work by Dinosaur Jr. and Superchunk has been, Yuck shows confidence in enough related-but-different '90s sounds to promise future growth.
“Shook Down” is melodic and earnest power-pop in the vein of Teenage Fanclub. “Rubber” is a seven-minute avalanche of snot-thick guitar rumble. “Suicide Policeman” even recalls the morose singer-songwriter Elliot Smith. And album opener “Get Away” is Yuck trying on its Pavement hat.
“Yuck” may not have the excited, spontaneous feeling of the records from 20 years ago, but who can complain about a good student?
Yuck, of course, isn’t the only band making '90s records again — Japandroids and The Pains of Being True at Heart are due to follow up their excellent 2009 debuts later this year.
Who takes the baton from the masters and runs the farthest remains to be seen.
“Several Shades of Why”
Speaking of Dinosaur Jr., the guitar wizard himself released a solo effort this month. It’s fun hearing the frontman step aside from the normal gig and nimbly pick his way through 12 acoustic numbers. But after a bit I really just want him to plug back in and melt my face.
The title track is Mascis and his guitar, backed only with some lonely, weepy strings. His trademark Neil Young croak, still seeming to just barely hang on to the melody, seems all the more vulnerable without a giant stack of Marshal amplifiers..
Album centerpiece “Is It Done” is excellent. No matter how many times it’s been said in the past, it bears repeating — Mascis is simply an outstanding guitarist. And perhaps it’s no coincidence that the album’s strongest song strays from the acoustic restraints, just slightly.
Band of Horses singer Ben Bridwell chips in accompanying guitar here, and elsewhere on the record. As does fellow disheveled singer-songwriter Kurt Vile, who appears in one shape or form on half of the songs.
Even if Mascis’ melodies have a bit of a same-y quality to them, fans of his regular band will find an immediate, comforting quality to the record. It’s a warm breeze in March, the month that refuses to feel like Spring no matter how much we beg.
Ed McMenamin may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.