One thing you can rely on at The Lexington is the Islington pub’s ample choice of delicious alcoholic beverages. My favourite is Flying Scotsman. It is most definitely not YUCK. Ahem. Tumbleweed. Apologies. Speaking of Yuck, you really have no choice but to admire their perseverance. It’s not every band that could survive the departure of a founding member, singer and songwriter as the London based shoegaze/indie/noise rockers did when Daniel Blumberg left the group in April 2013. Not only did Yuck survive, but they also returned with a slightly stylistically different second album in the form of 2013’s Glow & Behold that was only `little less accomplished than their self titled 2011 debut. But which Yuck will we see tonight? The noise/indie of their first record, or the more subdued shoegaze/indie of their follow up?
First, let’s talk about trains. Damn trains. A “staff illness” on a First Capital Express service from Cambridge means that I unfortunately miss the first opening band, Bare Pale. However, I can tell you they play a lo fi scuzzy, lackadaisical shoegaze and their EP If It Is can be downloaded, for free, here. Get it.
Polterghost, who claim to be from Nibelheim (the hometown of Cloud Strife in Final Fantasy VII), are next and at once familiar and unusual. They sport rock hard riffs situated somewhere between Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden, sugary Weezer-esque verses, and some of the most ripping and roaring solos heard this side of Dinosaur Jr’s J. Mascis. If Michel Gondry remade Ghostbusters, Polterghost’s bassist would play Dr. Egon Spengler. The singer/guitarist looks like Future Island’s Samuel T. Herring with a lumberjack beard. I like them. Have a listen.
Ten minutes late, but very welcome, Yuck take the stage. Singer/guitarist Max Bloom notifies the crowd it has been a year since they’ve played London and the quartet launch into “Holing Out” from their self titled debut. Considering the band has only two LPs and an EP, the set feels full of classics and the foursome are received rapturously (there are three lads next to me who embrace every time a song begins as if they are celebrating the reunion of long lost classic 90s alt rock legends).
The fuzz-wah laidback “Get Away” plays like a distant cousin of “1979” by The Smashing Pumpkins in that the song just screams teenage summers drinking cider in fields; its intricate melodies feel effortless, no mean feat. The joyous “Middle Sea” (check out the hilarious tennis themed music video) pumps genuine life into proceedings with its exultant celebration of immediate gratification. Pick of the bunch is “Lose My Breath”. Bassist Mariko Doi’s Kim Deal-like vocals float so wonderfully over the song that it makes you wonder why she doesn’t take the lead for more songs.
After a faux encore exit, the band treat their hometown crowd to a new song that will appear on their as yet untitled third album. It’s midtempo shoegaze follows the template set by last year’s “Glow & Behold”, and on first listen sounded solid, if not quite on the standard of their previous material. Further listens will reveal more. “Georgia”, with it’s Cure riff and as always wonderful Mariko Doi vocals, closes the gig out with aplomb.
The band’s Dinosaur Jr/Sonic Youth aspirations are plainly evident for the duration. However, where those bands are/were ramshackle and unpredictable live, Yuck play it straight down the line. There’s little in the way of noise rock tonight. While this is slightly disappointing, the sheer strength of the band’s material ensures the spirit of the evening never wanes. Let’s see if they can keep the bar high for their upcoming third record. I’m betting they will.