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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Yuck w/ Unknown Mortal Orchestra @ Turner Hall Ballroom

July 18, 2011

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It's no secret that the '90s were ruled by apathy. Slacker-rock hit its peak early in the decade, with bands competing to be the most ironically detached. Pavement even sang tongue-in-cheek about the trend ("But I don't care/ I care/ I really don't care") on their 1994 single "Cut Your Hair." That feeling somewhat faded during the 2000s, but it's resurfaced recently thanks to numerous '90s indie rock reunions. Along with those revivals, a new crop of slacker acts has emerged, as well. One of those embracing the culture's ethos and noisy guitar rock is the London-based outfit Yuck, a group of barely-20-somethings who conjured up musical forebears Dinosaur Jr. and Teenage Fanclub at Turner Hall Ballroom on Monday night.

Apathy was no stranger to frontman Daniel Blumberg. He spent opener "Holing Out" with his eyes fixated on the room's back wall, ostensibly unconcerned with anything else—though the band's scorching-hot day slot at the Pitchfork Music Festival the day before might have made his exhaustion seem like disinterest. Not until Yuck's following song did it appear that Blumberg even knew he was playing to an audience. His indifference turned off most of the crowd, which stared listlessly back as Yuck played a lackadaisical 50-minute set that drew from this year's self-titled debut.

That's not to say the show didn't have its high marks. The Elliott Smith pastiche "Suicide Policeman" crescendoed magnificently into a serene guitar solo. And the crowd livened up to the first notes of "Get Away," providing some much-needed energy. During "Rubber," Blumberg stood slouched, sluggishly chugging out noisy chords to the slow-burning set closer. "Should I give in?" Blumberg sang, before concluding, "Yes, I give in," and ending the show with a squall of guitars. Yuck is indebted to '90s nostalgia for sure—look no further than how they pronounced our city: "mill-e-wah-que," a Wayne's World reference—but their songs never sounded stale. It's as if they've been preserved in a time capsule for the past 20 years.

Mysterious opening act Unknown Mortal Orchestra embodied their moniker and played a psychedelic rock set without stage lighting (the only illumination emanated from the band's merch table in the back). After the initial confusion of the band playing in the dark wore off, the band jammed through a brief but rousing set.

Photo by CJ Foeckler