The Listening Post: albums round-up

Yuck

Stranger Things (MAME Records), the third full-length from Yuck, has them refinding their comfort zone after the line-up-change-induced stresses of Glow and Behold. Largely recorded in frontman Max Bloom’s parents’ front room, that domestic security blanket allows them to easily switch between their slacker grunge and gentler moments to some effect.

Whether it’s the catchy ‘Only Silence’ (with its nods to Going Blank Again-era Ride) or hint of Teenage Fanclub in the title track, the ancestry may be rather obvious but familiarity needn’t necessarily breed contempt. Rather than tear up the rule book, Yuck are using it as a guide. In such a crowded market that may be a dangerous strategy over the longer term, but the choppy ‘Hearts In Motion’ would have played well in a Reading Festival tent in 1994; no reason why it shouldn’t do the same in 2016.

It’s never terribly encouraging to hear that an act “felt a crushing lack of creative energy” after releasing an album, especially one as well received as Teen‘s The Way and the Color was. Still, the creative re-think that saw them hole up for a while in Kentucky and Nova Scotia seems to have paid off, with Love Yes (Carpark Records) a neon-lit skip through modern life (with all its attendent complexities). Even so, Teen are a New York act and they still have the Big Apple coursing through their leads and cables.

Pitching up as the album Le Tigre and Cyndi Lauper never made together, it stays just the right side of quirk. Tracks like ‘Example’ (with its Mael Bros chorus) and ‘Superhuman’ are securing the three Lieberson sisters – keyboardist Lizzie, drummer Katherine, and singer Teeny and bassist Boshra Al-Saadi – slots on Top of the Pops in whatever alt-universe it still happens to be airing. That might be the only clould hanging over Love Yes: whether there’s still an audience for such cerebral pop or if, like TotP, it belongs to another age entirely.

Four albums into her solo career and Katy Goodman (aka La Sera) still gets the ‘ex-Vivian Girls’ notes – and here we go compounding the issue. Music For Listening To (Polyvinyl) is a collaboration with guitarist (and new spouse) Todd Wisenbecker that sees the pair craft twelve tracks of pleasing Anglophile indie shot through with rootsier touches from closer to home.

Wisenbecker has been studying the Johnny Marr book of guitar craft; from the runaway rockabilly of ‘Time To Go’ that recalls Smiths b-side ‘London’, to the self-confessed Sandie Shaw-isms of ‘A Thousand Ways’. This may occasionally feel too much like a love letter to Hatful of Hollow, but the absence of cynicism – from the unpretentious title onwards – carries it through. Ryan Adams’ hands-off production leaves room for the songs to breathe and while Goodman doesn’t have the world’s strongest voice (which she endearingly references on ‘High Notes’) the final package is satisfyingly whole. Pretty charming, man.

About Douglas Baptie (178 Articles)
Editor at Words & Guitars. Lives in Carlisle, far away from 'that London'.
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