London quartet (formerly quintet) Yuck have returned with a second album, this time sans original frontman Daniel Blumberg. Like their older material, it’s good – in fact, it’s beautiful – but it lacks the originality that was already scarce on their self-titled to begin with. Max Bloom really stepped up to the plate with melodies that gorgeously surpass that record, but Glow & Behold still plays a bit like a Christopher Guest movie on indie rock.
Maybe that’s because they went with a “narrative” approach, focusing on “segues and transitions” to tell a story arc, instead of their previous “let’s just take the best songs we’ve written” method. Whatever the reason, the result is that you’ve heard all the great stuff before, and the the rest is filler meant to plug the gaps.”Middle Sea” juxtaposes common themes (“I don’t wanna wait, I want it now/Move across the ocean”) with a Mark Hoppus-y vocal line, while “Somewhere” epitomizes aurally-pleasing laziness with a three-chord ballad rife with clunkers already used up for the next couple years by the top-40 foot-stompers like”I will wait for you/I will see you through.” These are then set to a soundtrack of Sunny Day Real Estate chords played with the dreamily depressing feel of Snow Patrol‘s “Run.”
If I was a teenager when this came out, I’d have loved it, which is why I loved “Run” to an embarrassing extent when it came out. This is great for a listen or two, but not for a buy. I get that the early 90’s were two decades ago, which is when ‘revivals’ became fashionable, but some lyrics even hint that the band is aware of this lack of personality.
On “Lose My Breath,” Mariko Doi’s mantra “no need to find out who you are” feels like the band is reassuring themselves. On the aptly titled “Nothing New,” Bloom’s intro could almost be sung from the point of view of the departing Blumberg, addressing the band:
Even though that features yet another “I will wait for you” chorus, that track features some unique bells and whistles to break this pattern, like a psychedelic arpeggiator that pairs with the strange chords to give an other-worldy feel. There are definitely some other bright spots of shining identity, like the instrumentals “Chinese Cymbals” and “Sunrise in Maple Shade.” Still, originality-snob nitpicking aside, it does justice to the horde of bands that influenced it.