“I think it took me quite a long time to realise that you can't please everyone, so I just wanted to make music that was fun for me to play primarily,” says Yuck’s Max Bloom of his band’s forthcoming third record Stranger Things. It seems funny that such narrowing of dynamics should lead to the band’s most arresting effort yet. Yuck’s genius has always been product of hinting at emotional transparency through a 90s shoegaze and slacker-rock informed filter that has become synchronous with distorted narratives and abstract wordplay. And on Stranger Things, they manage to coup fuzzed-out, grittily produced gems that carry emotional weight as competently as an Elliott Smith record. Bloom recites ‘Swirling’ as being “cathartic to write” and its reflective narration seems to almost double up as both a breakup song and a nostalgic look back at the band’s turbulent few years amid the departure of then-frontman Daniel Blumberg.
There seems to be a tendency within the realms of indie rock to tackle subject matters such as these (heartbreak, nostalgia, social anxiety) from the outside looking in, which is fine. Yet Yuck refuse to recast emotions, writing almost exclusively in first person. There are fewer better lyrics about social anxiety than “we’re all driving in different lanes/hoping we collide”.
“I’m just really obsessed with the album as a format, and I like to hear certain songs in certain places on the album.”
The aforementioned line up change, which subsequently saw Ed Hayes come in on guitar, seems to have brought the band closer together, if anything. Yuck don’t have a frontman, as such. “I don’t think people see me in that way on stage,” Bloom admits. In the spirit of collaboration, Hayes takes on writing duties for the first time on Stranger Things, penning ‘Like a Moth’ and the feedback-laden closer ‘Yr Face’. “I wanted to get Ed involved in the songwriting because he’s an amazing musician and really adds something different to the band,” Bloom ponders. When quizzed about the record’s sonic narrative, he explains: “I’m just really obsessed with the album as a format, and I like to hear certain songs in certain places on the album." Despite the masterfully executed semi-chronology and the nods to Wilco that a band in their early twenties would never have made, Yuck refuse to mature beyond all-out indie rock earworms when it comes to singles. ‘Hearts in Motion’ recalls turbo-charged Pixies cut, with Bloom exhibiting a rarely seen confidence, and ‘Cannonball’ is a similar story, sharing a name and seemingly a bassist with the classic Breeders cut.
Bloom confessed early on in our interview that he’s “obsessed” with music, and it shows. Whilst Stranger Things is studious of all the right bands (Big Star, Teenage Fanclub, Built to Spill), it would seem that being utterly consumed by great music has lead to Bloom learning how to transcend archetypal indie rock via point-blank emotion and compositions that sound ambitious, but manage to stay within their means enough for Yuck to execute flawlessly. After a number of years of violently fluctuating sonic identity, the band seem to have finally put their character to tape.
Capturing both the captivatingly reflective, hazy side of the band as well as their restless fuzz-charged blueprint, Stranger Things is a perfectly executed slice of fuzzy power-pop and ultra-fun indie rock; it’s a rebirth rather than a return to form, but manages to maintain the studious and carefully-placed underground nods that struck a chord with so many when Yuck came to be. Or, as Max’s dad put it: “The tunes sound nice.”
Words by Marty Hill