Yuck - Stranger Things - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Yuck - Stranger Things

by Sean Hewson Rating:8 Release Date:2016-02-26
Yuck have always had songs ('Get Away', 'Middle Sea', 'Georgia') but not always enough of them to make an album. Quality control has tended to drift a little, meaning albums that start out as eights or nines, come in as sevens. This can have two effects: You're disappointed at/for them for not quite making it; you stick with them because you know they can make it. On Stranger Things, they've just about made it. 
The bedrock of Yuck's sound has always been alternative American guitar music, from 'You're Living All Over Me' to 'Keep It Like a Secret'. However, like The Rolling Stones with the blues (if that's not too silly a comparison), it has seeped so deeply into them that it is now what they are. It's their sound and, what I think has worked well for Yuck on Stranger Things, is the combination of this sound with an unashamed embracing of the pop song, often in its classic, Brill Building form (major/minor changes, seventh chords, middle eights). 
The high points on this album are the best of these pop songs. The title song starts out exactly like Slight Return by The Bluetones and, as with Slight Return, it's a great song - the minor chords tug at the heart-strings like all good pop music should. Like A Moth is lovely, it's actually pretty, like Yo La Tengo on And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out. Bloom's voice is well suited to its higher key. I'm OK is quite like Mikal Cronin. The chorus doesn't quite resolve as quickly as expected and it's these extra little touches that make Stranger Things a more rewarding album than their previous releases. As I Walk Away, mainly sung by Doi, is gorgeous. It bounces along lightly on acoustic guitar, bass and drums. Jonny Rogoff is  a very tasteful drummer, he just serves the song, most notably on this song and on I'm OK where he's like Hal Blaine.
A few cautionary notes to finish: There are too many distorted vocals for a band with two strong singers; Yuck can sometimes get a bit too close to Built To Spill in their guitar playing (Hearts In Motion); and, also like Built To Spill, some of the songs outstay their welcome by a couple of minutes. But, let's throw caution to the wind and talk percentages, where previous Yuck albums were only made up of 60-70% good songs, Stranger Things is over 80%. They're not quite there yet - Cannonball is just OK, Only Silence isn't much beyond its main riff - but, if Yuck are the band that I think they are, this is still a learning process and they may still record an album that bats all the way down the order, like the Australian cricket side of the early 2000s.

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