The Echo was at near capacity, absolutely packed. I eased my way through all the bodies and loud chatter and found a sweet spot right at stage left. Minutes later I was arms length from North Londoner Daniel Blumberg, the often referred to wonder kid who, along with Max bloom, had indie success with their band Cajun Dance Party back in 2007- 2008 when they were in their teens. While traveling through Israel, Daniel met an afro adorned drummer from New Jersey, (Johnny)- Max moved from bass to lead guitar... somehow they hooked up with bass player Mariko, (from Hiroshima), and in 2009 Yuck was born. From all indications it was a healthy birth and, from the solid set they played at the Echo, the baby is definitely thriving.
Yuck started their set with "Holing out", a trashy pounding song that made me think of 80's bands like Sonic Youth, the Pixies and Smashing Pumpkins. While the sound is retro it feels completely fresh and immediate. In songs like "The Wall" and "Georgia" - the combination of heavy bass lines and full electric rhythms tempered with absolutely folked out vocals make you day dream of days gone by. The alt ballad feel is also evident in "Suicide Policeman" where the strains of Daniel's and Mariko's vocals sound quite beautiful. Key to Yuck's sound is Max Bloom's superb guitar work that often times is full on sustain notes, (with slide and without), that sound potent and dreamy at the same time. Other stand out songs for me this night was "Milkshake" with it's wonderfully placed minor chords and guitar hooked "Operation" which was by far the heaviest song of the evening. I am now officially a Yuck convert and will be heading out to purchase their latest CD- "Yuck" from Fat Possum records.
While Yuck's influences seem to be embedded in the 80's, some of Smith Westerns' seem to pull from an earlier time. These baby faced Chicago rockers produce a glossy polished sound but with enough heart and swagger to have one foot still in the garage and I like that. From their first song of the night, "Still New"- Max Kakacek lead work takes me back to T-Rex, Be Bop Deluxe and even a bit of George Harrison and Cullen Omori's vocals are breathy and intimate. Songs like "Imagine Pt 3" and "Be My Girl" with it's pure pop sensibility sound like they could be the theme songs for a tween TV show but also have enough bite and melody to be a whole lot more. "Tonight" has a decidedly 50's shuffle feel. "Smile" and "All Die Young" with the floating keys, melodic guitar leads and lush vocals could be tunes off John Lennon's "Walls and Bridges" album. They played a full 14 song set to an appreciative audience, ending with "Dye the World". I loved the dreamy feel of their set, I loved hearing guitar leads which you don't often hear in current alternative music and I loved hearing a bit of glam sprinkled on their alt pop sound. In the end whomever Smith Westerns considers to be influential in their music should be honored that Omori and the boys are crafting these wonderfully evocative songs.
- Adler Bloom