Folks who grew up in the ’70s will surely remember Mr. Yuk, the radioactive green character whose visage adorned poisonous household items. The stickers were intended to keep children away from toxins, but researchers ultimately found that Mr. Yuk attracted children more than he repelled them. The campaign was largely abandoned before anyone in the band Yuck was born.
Nonetheless, the group, whose various young members hail from London, Hiroshima, and New Jersey, share a trait with Mr. Yuk beyond the homophonic one. Yuck may have meant for its name—and the crude cover art of its debut full-length (suggestive of one of poet Kenneth Patchen’s drawings)—to be snarky or off-putting, but the band crafts music that is beautiful and infectious.
The most obvious touchstones are Dinosaur Jr. and Teenage Fanclub. On opener “Get Away,” Max Bloom expertly recreates the whooshing guitar squall of Dinosaur’s J Mascis, while his childhood friend, singer Daniel Blumberg, is so impressed he has to sing about it: “Break it down/Then break it up again/Me and my guitar/Drowning down and around.” Teenage Fanclub’s melodious influence is particularly noticeable on the loping “Shook Down” and the dreamy “Sunday.” Blumberg channels Elliot Smith on the album’s most sedate number, “Suicide Policeman.” But overall, the album’s vibe is overwhelmingly upbeat.
The kids in Yuck look as cute as they sound, from Blumberg’s tilting Art Garfunkel ’do to bassist Mariko Doi’s precocious elegance to drummer Jonny Rogoff’s inspired pairing of Rob Tyner’s hair and D. Boon’s endomorphic physique. The look serves Yuck well. And while the band’s invocation of late ’80s/early ’90s indie rock sounds undeniably secondhand, Yuck works the aesthetic with such enthusiasm that it doesn’t really matter. Equally endearing are the moments on Yuck when Blumberg recruits his sister Illana (who’s still in high school) to sing harmonies (“Georgia,” “Holing Out”). The formula is derivative, sure, but the hooks are arresting, the pedal effects are fuzzy, and Yuck’s brio is thrillingly youthful. Don’t stay away.