Growing up is hard to do. I have no idea how old the members of Yuck are, but I know the band’s brand new album lacks whatever rougher edges could be found on their first record. There’s a temptation as a musician to clean up a bit as you age, to embrace some arbitrary notion of maturity that often manifests itself as the repudiation of anything messy or noisy. That process is in full effect on Glow & Behold, which is about as urgent as a trip to the DMV.
Once a partnership, Yuck’s songwriting duties now fall mostly to Max Bloom. He prefers the stately and sedate in his pop music, with simple melodies played pristinely on guitars with warm tones. Those guitars are too tidy and tasteful, the melodies too pat and familiar. The opening instrumental “Sunrise in Maple Shade” threatens to turn into Teenage Fanclub’s “December” when the bass kicks in, and it’s not a good sign when a record’s first song makes you want to listen to another record. These songs could stand to be a bit rougher and more haggard. They’re like a model home, well-appointed but not lived in.
The album comes to life a bit on the single “Middle Sea,” which captures an energy otherwise lacking. “Rebirth” is a swinging take on shoegaze, with a bouncy bassline and jittery dance beat swimming inside My Bloody Valentine guitar washes. There are a few nice moments when bassist Mariko Doi sings, both alone and alongside Bloom—she has the sort of sweet, flat voice that’s always well-suited for indie pop, and it’s a welcome contrast to Bloom’s dull vocals.
Glow & Behold is never shrill or musically obnoxious, but it’s obnoxious how dull it is. Its most memorable moments are its similarities to other, better bands. The pleasant but plodding “Lose My Breath” sounds like a less awkward (and thus less interesting) Velocity Girl. Some songs spool out for too long, like “Somewhere,” which sounds like the Field Mice without the lyrical conviction. Glow & Behold feels like an album that would’ve come out on a major label during the alt-rock free-for-all of 1993 and maybe garnered a small amount of play on the then-nascent alternative rock radio format before cluttering up the used CD stores of America until they all went out of business.