Yuck frontman Daniel Blumberg has gone through the motions before – hype, groupies, even a Glastonbury timeslot. And though much has been made of the fact the he has only just turned 21, I get that sense that for Blumberg, age is little more than an arbitrary timeline.
Sweating at the thought of my pending international bill, I phoned the English singer-guitarist straight after a gig at Sneaky Pete’s in Edinburgh and was instantly caught off guard by his remarkable equanimity. For a young dude whose band had just played a sold-out show and has been making ripples in music media, Blumberg’s composure seems well beyond his years.
Perhaps his demeanor has something to do with his previous experience as the lead singer for the ’00s buzz band Cajun Dance Party, which released a decently reviewed debut and played Glastonbury in 2007 (when Blumberg was only 17) before petering out. I mention this thought to him, but he dismisses the correlation between his age and experience.
“Age is a weird thing,” Blumberg says through a sigh. “Like when my friends talk about their ages I don’t really pay attention to it, and so I have sort of forgotten about it.”
This complacent disregard for the passing of time doesn’t come as a complete shock. A group of early-20-year olds, Yuck revels in the lo-fi skronk-and-thrash that was pioneered in the mid 90s, when the four band members – Blumberg, Mariko Doi, Max Bloom, and Jonny Rogoff – were just tikes. Even a cursory listen to their eponymous debut album begs comparison to the likes of Pavement, Yo La Tengo, and Sonic Youth, bands now well into middle age.
Many have already made these comparisons the substance of reviews, some writing the band off as faux-90’s revivalists, riding out the recent resurgence of lo-fi. This critique feels especially dangerous for someone who has already weathered the unforgiving trajectory of buzz-bandom.
“I don’t think we are conscious of that; we weren’t really talking about this thing we wanted to be,” Blumberg says. “I love a lot of 90s music, its an amazing period and decade, but I’m really indifferent to what people say about our music.”
This criticism must be at least a little irksome for Blumberg, because he chooses to elaborate on this point.
“We were actually listening to a lot of current guitar bands when we started, and they were inspiring: Times New Viking, Titus Andronicus, No Age, and Deerhunter. Those were four [bands whose] albums came out and were really exciting. I think loads of amazing guitar records still come out,” he says.
Whether to its credit or to a fault, the album does sound authentically 90s. Blumberg explains that the record was compiled on the basis of the individual track without any heed to an overarching concept. So taken one song at a time, Yuck manages to avoid the pretentiousness that trying to recreate an album like Daydream Nation would have inevitably yielded. Grungier pieces like “Holing Out” and “Operation” alternate starkly, yet welcomely, with more sedate tracks, “Suck” and “Suicide Policeman.” But the album’s high point is its hazy dénouement, “Rubber.” Driven by the pulsating, percussion- swallowing distortion of Blumberg’s guitar, which seeps into every crevice of the 8-minute song, “Rubber” is a droning catharsis. Though arriving as the last track, it is unquestionably the heart of the album, and it’s extraordinarily transfixing.
Momentarily turning groupie, I gush over “Rubber” and tell him it is my favorite track. Blumberg becomes flattered but also markedly demure –his tone hints that the song is somewhat personal. I do some suave sidestepping and ask about the music video, which features spliced clips of dog grooming and tits. He lightens up.
“I really liked the way it was completely and utterly detached,” Blumberg says. “This director from L.A. emailed us and said he had an idea for a music video for ‘Rubber,’ and we were like that’s so good. So detached from my vision of the song. I quite like that because that’s quite a serious song,” he admits, deflating claims that the album is merely an inert pastiche devoid of personality.
Serious questions now aside, we begin to hobnob, from one 20-something to another. I am psyched to learn that we have been digging a lot of the same artists, but not before he makes fun of me for liking Ke$ha and being from Ohio (two things I can’t help). We discuss Kurt Vile’s Childish Prodigy for a bit and then swap band suggestions. Although our tastes are similar, I find his priorities are in a much different place than mine.
“If you weren’t in Yuck, where do you think you would be?” I ask.
“I’d like to just work at the bookshop or the record shop. Working in the bookshop I’d prefer because it’s quieter,” he responds.
“Then go home and watch a film,” Blumberg finishes the thought.
So it sounds like he would be something of a…grandpa-librarian? Isn’t he excited to be on tour with his rock band? Does he know what it is to be a normal 21-year-old?
Then, momentarily ditching his wizened, bohemian shtick for a more age-appropriate subject, Blumberg discusses turning legal: ”Max is the only who can’t drink now, but he is 21 in May so we’re going to have a great time on tour in America over the next couple of months.”
That’s more like it.