Turn the volume up. Dust the record down. Nestle the stylus in the groove. Sometimes music need not be any more complex than that. Anyone who loves their tunes should be able to recall a moment where a riff kicked in on a song and things just felt better. The unexplainable euphoria of the right collection of notes in the right order delivered with enough gusto is part of why we’re all so addicted to music. It’s often the case that the albums which deliver that urgent rush are derivative, simple and noisy. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Having seen Yuck supporting Teenage Fanclub back in May of last year, I was eagerly anticipating this debut. Their nascent live show was energetic and quite noticeably rough around the edges, but what makes them good now made them good then. They’ve heard some great records which made them want to be in a band. OK, for two of them that band was originally Cajun Dance Party but we’re all sensible adults here and we can let that go. Just this once. Add in a drummer who looks like the improbably well fed islander in Lost and attacks his drum kit like it’s betrayed him several times over and things are ticking along nicely.
Yup, ‘Shook Down’ possesses the mellow jangle of early Teenage Fanclub and the Dinosaur Jr references have come thicker and faster than a Daily Star sponsored fun run but it’s still an album which deserves a good set of speakers and a wilfully antisocial abuse of the volume control. Opening pair, ‘Get Away’ and ‘The Wall’ should be enough to get the attention of anyone who likes a decent melody, whilst ‘Georgia’ fizzes with early Nineties production and is undercut by scuzzy, distorted guitars. This trick is not underused throughout the album and, yes, it’s been done plenty of times before, but the major objections which seem to be getting fired at this lot are based on them copying a certain era. Best Coast rip off the Sixties and all is fine, Aloe Blacc picks up Stevie’s Seventies sound and all is well and Frankie & The Heartstrings and The Crookes merrily plunder the Eighties with full acceptable zeal. But touch certain late Eighties and early Nineties bands and, like telling Princess Diana jokes to Daily Express readers, it’s just too soon.
The swooning ‘Suck’ is classic rock ballad to open the second half of the record, capturing the keening sound which Tim Wheeler perfected in the early days of Ash. The pace lets up a little in the middle and those tracks aren’t all a resounding triumph but when the riff monster comes out to play again on ‘Operation’ all is well. The vocals are wilfully distorted – perhaps to hide the fact that the band isn’t yet likely to win any awards for lyrics – and the verses border on a pedestrian chug, but the chorus is shouty, silly and utterly joyous.
I don’t imagine it helped that most of the reviews for this record were written when Britain was covered in snow and wearing seven jumpers. A bit of sunshine and a vaguely cheery disposition are a useful accompaniment for listening, which is not to make excuses, simply to state a fact. Only an idiot would argue with the idea that a lot of albums work best in certain seasons. Likewise, barbecues work better in blazing sunshine than pissing rain. That’s not just a fanboy attempt to excuse the crapness of fire, you understand.
‘Yuck’ is not a contender for album of the year. It’s not a world-beater which will receive twenty-five page spreads from Mojo in ten years’ time and it is not breaking new ground. But it’s a great little indie-rock record made by a band who are getting many more things right than they’re getting wrong. Having had plenty of hype heaped upon them of late, it can be tempting to give them a wide berth but don’t be too hasty. If you want to find fault then I’m sure you’ll manage it but if you want a few cheap guitar thrills then you could do a lot worse. Despite the crap band name and even worse artwork, ‘Yuck’ is the sound of a band in their element and is a debut album of which they can be rightly proud.