DINOSAUR JR, JR “It’s quite nice, the bands that we’re compared to are good and stuff,” says Yuck’s Daniel Blumberg. “I love those bands.”
Somewhere along the line in the history of music journalism, writing about the way a record sounds turned into drawing up a laundry list of predecessor comparisons. Roughly around the time the second rock and roll record was made, I'd guess. It's a problem that's become further convoluted in recent years as the vast well of influence-bait has grown deeper, and we've entrenched ourselves in a postmodern retro morass of referential one-upmanship. The ever-shortening recovery period between the reemergence of music past has led to hash-tag (and headline) criticism. Yuck: LOL via @DinoJr #grunge
That might not be fair. The extremely young, extremely hyped UK indie guitar band Yuck aren't merely grunge revivalists after all. They also seem like they're into shoegaze too.
Those two back-trending approaches dominate the 12 songs on February's homonymous Fat Possum debut. "Suck" finds Billy Corgan guitar squalls treading water alongside Thurston Moore vocals. The plaintive, acoustic "Suicide Policeman" is a new-millennium Evan and Juliana trading druggy, lovelorn verses; while "The Wall" and "Holing Out" alternate between scorched and clean J Mascis guitar tones and muffled vocal effects, grunge-era lo-fi production, and blissed-out harmonies. Other of the slower songs seem like My Bloody Valentine tracks performed at a show where they forgot to unpack most of their guitar pedals.
None of which is meant as criticism. The record just might be brilliant. Lead single "Get Away" is among the most exciting three and half minutes of guitar music released all year. The question is: does that excitement inhere in the anachronistic novelty — the intrigue of a past artifact smuggled forward into the future?
I don't think so. The record is successful both in its referential overload and as its own discrete entity, in much the way you need not be familiar with everything hinted at in an allusion-rich text or film to follow the basics of the plot. How many UK indie kids own copies of Green Mind or Dirty, anyway?
For his part, guitarist and vocalist Daniel Blumberg (who shares songwriting and vocal duties with partner Max Bloom) isn't trying to bullshit away the comparisons like so many other of his disingenuous contemporaries. The two made a previous stab at teenage-retroism with the moderately successful throwback-style outfit Cajun Dance Party.
"It's not frustrating," Blumberg says of the constant comparisons to his grungy forefathers, in a halting, rather difficult interview. "I think people, when they listen to the record, they can have their own relationship with it. There's a few songs people pick up on for certain comparisons. Yeah. It's quite nice, the bands that we're compared to are good and stuff. I love those bands. It's really cool. I don't know, we weren't trying to do anything, or we didn't have any aims or goals apart from making songs we were happy with."
Blumberg seems to be hinting at a future departure in style, but whether that was imminent in newer material he was working on, or even what that direction might be, he couldn't say. He's 21 years old, after all, with a lengthy musical career ahead. Just don't ask him to plot it out. "I think we've just started and we're just writing songs," he says. "If I was, like, we're gonna make this album, and we really had an intention. . . . " It wouldn't have worked? He never finishes that thought.