Pitchfork Music Festival 2011, Sunday: Yuck
Sitting in a Thai restaurant last month, I heard Yuck's "The Wall." At first I could not place it. "God, what is this?" my girlfriend asked. "I know it's something from the '90s." That's the general feeling you get when listening to the Brit's self-titled debut, an unwinnable game of name that Yo La Tengo/Superchunk/Dinosaur Jr. song. It's a pleasant feeling, though. They're good mimics.
Though for all the obvious '90s nods, the record's main shortcoming it something decidedly modern, cruddy lo-fi production. A veil of scuzz obscures the vocals. Where's Brian Paulson when you need him? Yuck's greatest moments are its quietest ones. The ballad "Suicide Policeman" articulates teenage doldrums tenderly, and reminds me of something a little older, like the Replacements.
Live, none of this is an issue. Daniel Blumberg's vocals are loud and clear. He's frail, hunched, pale and sensitive, as I expect my indie English singers to be, like Jim Reid with less love of motorcycles. He might be melting in this sun, though.
The guitars are cranked to superfuzz bigmuff. The drummer looks like he could either be in the Melvins or the Roots. They have a girl on bass, just like Superchunk. And Jawbox. And a lot of other '90s bands. It veers a bit too far into effects pedals fetishism. Even "Suicide Policeman" loses it's emotional edge with an extended shoegazer bridge and minus the female backup vocals. The most personality they show is when a guitar rig goes on the fritz. Then the sarcasm comes out.
As workmanlike as the material is live, I couldn't help but think that putting Superchunk on the bill is both a blessing and curse for Yuck. On one hand, they'll get to meet their idols. On the other hand, it will be a bit of a schooling.