Howdy Internets! I have returned from my spirit journey following FIDLAR across the country as a new, better and (finally) healthier piece of breaded pork product!* And while there has been disagreement and truculence abroad in the nation of late, all could not be better under the Moist Graffiti overpass**. Now, as keen readers of the ‘G will know, I was recently outed as a childhood flautist. That’s ok, it’s cool – I’ve been through enough snare drum circles and life affirmation side ponytail braiding sessions at my indie rock therapy**** camp to know that life goes on and whatever does not kill me makes me stronger. So now that my chi is fully aligned with my chakra, I am finally ready to begin the healing process and I can share with you the story of the divorce that tore my world apart, the years of miserably crying myself to sleep wondering what I could’ve done better to make it right and the rift that made me the person I am today, filled with bitterness and self-loathing and two Christmases.
Yes, I am finally ready to discuss Daniel Blumberg leaving Yuck.
Once upon a time, I was******* formless and void********. And then, a light appeared in the darkness! Georgia, found its way to my ears and lo, I heard that it was good. A sonic paean to one of the members of Yo La Tengo??? Max Bloom and Daniel Blumberg reached down from the heavens and removed the scales from my eyes. I could see the world was made of color and taste and love and joy and pain and so much noise!! They shared their beautiful music with me in the form of a near-perfect debut album (Yuck, MG Rating 92.174) and dragged me out of childhood into the wonderful world of adolescence where I find myself now.
Yes, those were happy days, just Max and Dan and me and a fuzz pedal********* and the other members of the group, and a set of headphones. They taught me all about Dinosaur Jr., Sonic Youth, Yo La Tengo and Pavement. They put the 90s alternative movement in a blender, added a heaping helping of give-a-shit and made a mighty smoothie of majestic indie rock. They watched me grow, they nurtured my development, were there for me to cry on when girls broke my heart, there when the party started, and definitely there when the party got stopped by the cops.
I guess, in retrospect I should’ve known it was all too good to be true. If I’d done any digging into their past I’d have seen that they had already had a brush with success in the precocious Cajun Dance Party, a poppy blend of The Cure and The Strokes/The Kooks/The Libertines/The Wombats/The Rakes/Good Shoes/The Rifles/The Cribs/The Razorlight/The Arctic Monkeys/The Kaiser Chiefs/The Pigeon Detectives/The We Are Scientists/The Maccabees/any other sodding band that got vaguely big in England in the 2003-2005 time frame. Cajun Dance Party were actually really good, (for a bunch of 15 year old kids!!! I could barely dress myself by age 15, never mind look good holding a guitar!!) and yet Dan and Max had left the band after one album, on the verge of stardom to form Yuck. And the opening song from “Yuck” is an extended rant about how Dan “Can’t get away”. Hmmm…
And so, history repeated itself again. I still remember coming home from school that day and just sensing that something was up. Without warning, Max and Dan sat me down and told me that even though they loved me very much, things just weren’t working out between them. Dan was moving out, getting his own space, but he would come visit, and Max would still be there for me – it would be like nothing had changed…
Everything had changed. I cried in my room for weeks. I drank way too much Irn Bru and stuffed my face full of cheese-its, wotsits and foie gras. Life just wasn’t worth living. Eventually, of course, I got over it. We always do, don’t we? Kids are so resilient. I got on with my life, got back together with Emily for a while, and just accepted that my glory days were behind me, that life would never quite feel as good or as colorful ever again. I graduated college, got a job with a major indie music web log and settled down with a wife and a few children and an apartment in the city. But still I couldn’t shake the feeling that my life was missing something, that somewhere beyond the daily routine of shepherd’s pie and Carlsberg there was a land of blue cheese and Zinfindel…
So imagine my surprise when I learned that Yuck had soldiered on without Dan to release a new album this year AND that Dan was releasing a new solo album too!! Perhaps this would be my two Christmases they had promised me!? The proof that they did still love me, and that it really wasn’t my fault after all! Let that excitement wash over you for a few moments… and then let that happiness turn to ashes in your mouth.
The new Yuck’s new album is called “Glow And Behold”. This terrible pun alone should have sent me running for the hills, as if Lord Iffy Boatrace himself was chasing me with a mechanized dildo. Instead I stayed and listened to the whole thing. Then, 46 minutes later, I got up, went to the bathroom and threw up in the sink. “GAB” is not objectively terrible terrible, but it does not deserve to sail under the Yuck moniker. While “Yuck” ground its influences down to an unrecognizable pink slime and reconstituted them into a full pound of transatlantic meat-based product, “GAB” simply sounds like bits of other bands. The opening track “Sunrise in Maple Shade” borrows the bassline from “December” by Teenage Fanclub and throws in the guitar and horn parts from “Going For Gold” by Shed Seven for 4 minutes of wholly unnecessary instrumentalizing. Now normally I don’t need any excuse to go off on a tangent extolling the virtues of Shed Seven or Teenage Fanclub, but this patently derivative crap leaves such a bad taste in my mouth that I can’t even work up the radge without wanting to tear up again. The album does get better from here on. “Middle Sea”, despite being another godawful pun, is a bit of an earworm. It also contains the lyrical advice “I don’t wanna wait forever…move away across the ocean”, suggesting that Dan’s departure was not quite the mutual agreement, no hard feelings departure it has been made out to be. The title track also has some hummable moments. Much of the rest of the album is merely tame, derivative filler. “Memorial Fields” repurposes the riff from “No Surface, All Feeling” by the Manic Street Preachers but then aimlessly and embarrassedly shuffles off with it to…nowhere in particular. This is not the glorious, nutritional smoothie of influences that the first album unleashed. This is the slop bucket at the end of the bar after a long night. Yes, it vaguely tastes like some beer you recognize, but it’s never going to be better than the sum of it’s parts, and maybe you need to question some decisions you’ve made in your life.
I do think that Yuck might have another few good albums left in there somewhere. They need to break back into Dan’s house and steal the guitar pedals that he took with him when he left. They need to run their melodies past someone with an encyclopaedic knowledge of 90’s indie rock/pop music to make sure their riffs are fresh. And they need to write a few songs that elevate the heartbeat up from zombie to meth head.
The new Dan band is called “Hebronix”. This terrible pun alone should have had me running away from the pain as if a meteorite was about to destroy the earth and I was the last sober geologist on the planet. Instead, I stayed and listened to the whole thing. Then, 50 minutes later, I lay down, curled up around my pillow, and cried myself to sleep. The album, “Unreal“, is not objectively terrible terrible. It has some good hooks. It displays the full range of of fuzz pedals that Dan half-inched from the Yuck practice space before the divorce, and Dan puts them to use. Sweet baby Jesus and the orphans does Dan put them to use. The albums consists of 6 tracks. Inside these tracks there are probably the bones of about 2 good songs. Larded on top of these hooks are 48 minutes of meandering guitar solos, aimless lyrical passages, aimless 2-chord drones and repetitive patterns. “Close your eyes and remember, I am not in control”, Dan sings on the opening track, “Viral“. Sadly, this is dead wrong. Dan is far too in control. Lacking a producer or editor or co-writer or band member or friend, or mother or taxi drive, bank teller, checkout girl, someone for the love of dog to say “Hey Dan, perhaps 7 minutes of you whaling on the wah-wah pedal isn’t what the world needs right now”. The low point of the album comes 75% of the way into the 2-chord jam “Unreal” (no shit…), where Dan decides that what the song needs is some random beeping, because we all want to listen to someone perform trig on their 1987 calculator watch.
Combined, the albums will make you want to tear your hair out with frustration, and we know hair is a non-renewable resource. It’s like the movie where the characters flail through their lives, oblivious to the fact that everything they need is right in front of them and an hour and a half later you’re sobbing into your Stella, screaming at the TV “YOU COMPLETE EACH OTHER” while the lead characters stubbornly refuse to reconcile. If Dan and Max could get back together I’m sure they can make more beautiful music together. Until then, I am done with this shit. I’m filing for emancipation and hoping that Joanna Gruesome will adopt me…
Yuck – Glow and Behold Moist Graffiti Rating
Songs: Moderate to middling 55.163
Hooks: Pleasing but sparse 46.768
Effect pedals: Stolen by Dan or lost by Air France 36.997
Actually getting your shit together and putting out another album 52.134
Moving on with your career while keeping custody of the pop sensibility: +7
Moving from pastiche to pilfering: -4
MG Rating: 50.766
Hebronix – Unreal Moist Graffiti Rating
Songs: Rambling and pointless 34.458
Hooks: We don’t need no motherfucking hooks 16.904
Effect pedals: Fit comfortably in your back pack while the others were asleep 87.867
Actually getting your shit together and putting out another album 52.134
Always going where your muse takes you: +12.392
You’ve made a huge mistake: -11
MG Rating: 49.233
*They finally got shot of me by going within 500′ of a high school…
** Well, there was that punch-up over whether the Lorde album deserved an 81.111 or a 79.999, which led to people’s reviews-in-progress deleted, Facebook walls defaced and the revocation of cat-sitting privileges, but other than that we’re cool now, a’ight? ***
***Touch my Miley review again and die b.
**** How awesome was that first Therapy? album (MG Rating: 87.784)??? Larne’s finest***** were pioneering the insertion of punctuation marks into band names while Panic! At The Disco****** were still in diapers. Also, how bad are these Therapy? videos??? There were a lot of bad videos in the 90s, but these look like there were made by a stoned art school student the night before the final exam, which he inevitably failed and got kicked out to a life time of local press gigs and fast food McJobs…
***** This is not hard – there is nothing at all fine about Larne. Although it is close to where the Game Of Thrones Wall scenes were filmed…
****** How good was that first Panic! At The Disco album (MG Rating 79.489)!? Excellent songwriting, great lyrics, showmanship and a real dynamic range of songs that started, stopped, changed key on a dime and yet all flowed together beautifully – and they were still in high school when they wrote it! Compared to which their 2nd, 3rd and 4th albums are ever-decreasing Sarlaac pits of putridity.
******* Some translations suggest that I became formless and void, implying that this was not the first creation; but that disagrees with the Texas history books, so I’m not allowed to espouse anymore thoughts on that front, or Rick Perry will show up at my door and whip my ass into shape. He does that a lot.
******** Just realized that this many stars makes it look like I’m swearing a lot. No more footnotes for this essay.
*********Hey! Looks like that stoned art school dropout did make some more music videos after all!!
- Yuck (devilsincere.wordpress.com)
- Yuck – Live @ The Macbeth (neverreallyleftshoreditch.wordpress.com)
- Song of the Day: Hebronix – Wild Whim (kexp.org)
- Yuck’s followup ‘Glow & Behold’ loses some noisy luster (orlandoweekly.com)
- God Is In The TV: Yuck – ‘Glow And Behold’ (Fat Possum Records) (moonblogsfromsyb.wordpress.com)
- Yuck – ‘Glow & Behold’ (lazyboneslament.wordpress.com)