Yuck – ‘Stranger Things’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

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Despite a relatively short career, London-based Yuck, have already weathered changes that would have destroyed most other bands. Two years after their self-titled debut was released in 2011 to critical acclaim, founding member and front man Daniel Blumberg left the band to pursue his own projects. However, Max Bloom (guitar/vocals), Mariko Doi (bass/vocals) and Jonathan Rogoff (drums) decided to bring on Edward Hayes as a new guitarist and restructure the band. They went on to release another album and EP with this fresh lineup. Yet, it is with the release of their third LP Stranger Things that Yuck have finally become comfortable in their new skin and created a deeply personal album.

The album starts out strong right out of the gate with the previously released single “Hold Me Closer”; a fuzzed out guitar lays down a chugging rhythm before Max Bloom’s semi-distorted vocals appear akin to the vocal styling of Sparklehorse. It’s not long before a bright synth-sounding guitar lick joins the fray, bringing to mind the sounds of 90’s nerd-rockers The Rentals. “Cannonball” is both the second track and second single from Stranger Things and follows a similar formula albeit with a more aggressive garage-band tempo. These more aggressive tracks serve as juxtaposition to many of the tunes on the record. It’s when you make it to the third track that the dynamic of the album starts to give way to a more melodic and gentle sound. Dispensing with the distorted guitar and vocals of the previous tracks, “Like A Moth” incorporates harmonies and clean electric guitar melodies to create an eerily beautiful refrain. Similarly, “As I Walk Away” and “Swirling” integrate the same clean style of sparkling guitars, complimenting the dreamy vocal quality overlaying the songs.

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The lyrics to many of the songs reflect the anxiety and uncertainty the band has faced through the transition of the past few years following the departure of Blumberg. The chorus to the title track, “Stranger Things”, is just the line ‘I hate myself’ over and over again in regards to being described throughout the song. On the other hand, it is followed by “I’m OK”, which outlines the uncertainty and anxiety following the breakup and states, ‘I’ve got nothing to say to you/But I’m OK’. The album ends in the fashion that his become tradition for the band at this point with an epic, longer track; “Yr Face” clocks in at about six-and-a-half minutes. Distorted guitars and reverb on the vocals give it a strong shoegaze feel that would feel at home on any Slowdive record.

Stranger Things is an album that speaks a lot to doubt, uncertainty and separation. However, it also offers messages of hope, rebuilding and finding oneself. Combing both aggressive guitar rock and gentler guitar ballads, Stranger Things becomes more than just a sum of its parts. It becomes an emotional journey of pain and healing.

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