Glow & Behold

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Before Yuck began working on their second album, one of their two guitarist/songwriter/vocalists quit the band. Bands are always losing members and soldiering on, but once the original lineup starts to splinter it almost always means trouble. In this case, Daniel Blumberg's defection from the group pretty much ruined Yuck. Their early singles and debut album were thrilling and sometimes weird retro-shoegaze pop; a whirling blend of noise and stillness, melody and energy, that was built around really strong songs and surprising levels of emotion. On their first Blumberg-less album, Glow & Behold, almost all the thrill is gone. The remaining trio focuses on the pretty and melodic side of the equation but without the unpredictable noise and the weirdness to balance it. Thanks to this critical imbalance and Chris Coady's super slick production, the album mostly slides by without making much of a connection. At least, not a positive connection. The songs are mostly forgettable, the guitars are ever so precisely played, and even at their fuzziest, they don't sound dangerous enough to scare a newborn kitten. Meanwhile Max Bloom's vocals are whispery and often buried in the mix, the tempos sound draggy in comparison to those on the first album, and there's an overall sophistication to the sound that the band can't quite live up to. It's not all terrible, though. At their best, like on the super-hooky "Middle Ages" or the chummy-sounding "Lose My Breath," the band comes off like a lightweight variation of Velocity Girl's upbeat shoegaze, which in and of itself isn't a bad thing at all. The problem is that they need some scuzz and passion to go along with pleasant pop to make the album really take off. Unfortunately, most of the album sounds more like a Letters to Cleo cover band with a wispy dude on vocals than it does My Bloody Valentine or Dinosaur Jr. (two of the bands the first album brought to mind.) Which is fine for people who like their guitar pop polite and well-groomed, with a lot of hushed ballads on the second half of the album to help them off to sleep, but anyone who likes it a little rough and weird can't help but be disappointed. Especially since the band delivered that and much more on their debut album. All this record does is break the heart of anyone who fell in love with Yuck because of that album, and that's a real shame.

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