Photos by Evan Henkel
A band continuing without their original frontman is bold. It’s gutsy and noteworthy, but something was just off on Wednesday night. I walked into The Independent with slight apprehension. I was about to see a band I had really loved upon discovering in 2011. Yuck‘s debut album was it three years ago–90’s-inspired alt rock songs that burned slow and held an air of mystery, the self-titled release was a layered and labored-over project. Fast forward to 2013, when frontman Daniel Blumberg broke things off with the rest of the band. While Blumberg went on to tangle up his confusing project, Hebronix, Yuck soldiered on without and recorded “Glow & Behold” in an upstate New York church. Seemingly reluctant, guitarist Max Bloom took the reigns of frontman, and Yuck continued.
The two opening bands of the night helped to set the mood. Local ladies The She’s played cuts from their album, “Then It Starts to Feel Like Summer. These girls are recent high school grads but are serious about playing tight retro-pop rock. Their arrangements and stage presence that filled the venue came as a pleasant surprise.
Also looking like they just tossed their high school graduation caps in the air, were second opener GRMLN. Sons of Southern California, these guys started out because lead singer Yoodoo Park wanted better music to cruise the coast with. GRMLN were fresh-faced and energetic but seemed nervous and fell short of pulling together a cohesive performance. Many of their songs seemed too contrived with popular guitar riffs and vocal stylings of days gone by–The Replacements meets early 2000’s emo band du jour.
When it was finally time for Yuck to take the stage, I held my breath. I had rid myself of expectations and was curious to see how they were going to pull off a set of Blumberg and post-Blumberg songs. Launching into “Middle Sea,” Bloom and co. seemed tense. The set was short but held together an equal blend of new and old material. The captivation Yuck held while playing new songs hardly translated off the stage. And it seemed a small sense of misery glinted in Bloom’s eyes as the crowd were more reactive to Blumberg-related tracks like “Georgia” and “Operation.” However, songs like “Lose my Breath” and “Rebirth” were solid efforts to punch up the setlist. A semblance of spontaneity came from the band playing a garage rock version of New Order’s “Age of Consent.” But by that time in the night, it was clear that Yuck 2.0 was just not the band I fell in love with in 2011.
Like imitation crab meat in a sushi roll, I really wanted to like what was going on in front of me because it was so close to the real thing. Also like imitation crab meat in a sushi roll, I told myself “it’s not that bad.” Unfortunately, Yuck’s performance at the Independent last night lacked the heart and spirit they previously held. In 2011, Blumberg wasn’t the world’s greatest frontman. In fact, he was awkward and prickly, but something about his energy gelled the Yuck experience together. I don’t intend to over-credit Blumberg, but imagine The Smiths without–okay, okay, I won’t go that far.