- Mon, 2010-07-12 12:51
Yu(c)k live @ The George IV, Chiswick, London, 04/07/2010
Yuck are currently making waves, and lots of them, with their nineties revivalist fuzz-pop. They’ve been playing gigs a-plenty and garnering rave reviews left, right and centre from everyone and their dog. But there’s more to this young posse than ripped denim and an ear for a hook. In the last couple of weeks the band unveiled their side project, the cunningly named Yu(c)k. I Like Music went along to the George IV in Chiswick to find out what shape the band’s alternative dalliance takes.
The scene we are greeted with upon arriving in the George IV’s gig room is somewhat different to past Yuck shows that we’ve attended. A high stage protrudes from the left-hand wall, jutting into the centre of the long, low-lit hall. The space onto which it looks is occupied not by standing masses, but a cluster of tables and chairs and their quietly chatting occupants. It looks like a scene from a country club, its members waiting patiently for the evening’s entertainment.
Enter lead singer Danny, guitarist Max, and Ilana, Danny’s sister and an on-off member of Yuck. The set begins with Daughter, the first song from the upcoming Yu(c)k EP. Danny’s voice, pure and brittle, is given a light coating of reverb as he sings softly along to a simple phrase on the piano. The first chorus is signalled by the entrance of Ilana on backing vocals and a keyboard of her own, though the central musical phrase remains unchanged. The song builds through the second verse, with the addition of Max on electric drums, and continues to intensify for a good two minutes more before everything drops away again, leaving just the opening piano phrase to bring things to a close. Weakend, the EP’s title track, follows immediately after, and in similar style. It is simplicity incarnate, focussing almost exclusively on Danny’s wistful vocal, accompanied again by a sparse piano part and lent texture by the lightest of touches from Ilana.
Things move in a different direction for the subsequent two songs. First is a cover of Metal Detector, a gentle Dylan-esque track by cult American singer-songwriter East River Pipe, and second is Yuck’s own Suicide Policeman. Danny transfers to the acoustic guitar for both, with Max playing the electric guitar and cracking out the trumpet for the latter’s finale. Though wholly enjoyable, the tracks are relatively unremarkable, especially when compared with what we have already heard tonight.
It is thus a welcome sight when Danny puts down the acoustic and returns to his keyboard for the final two songs, the first of which is the stunning Walk. It returns to the formula of a simple piano part accompanying Danny’s bare vocals, which for three minutes dance around a beautiful, spectral melody. Then, without warning, he launches into an astonishing falsetto, singing over and over again in a voice that sounds like it should belong to a sixties soul diva “I’ve got to, I’ve got to show you my heart.” The shock of hearing him make such a sound, combined with the intense raw emotion of the performance stuns the room. After a further three minutes he falls breathlessly back into the original piano riff, which itself fades to a close.
The finale comes in the form of Automatic, which, if such a thing is possible, is even more skeletal and intimate than is predecessors. Built around just three ringing notes, Danny and Ilana whisper their soft harmonies to a rapt audience, who burst into applause as the last note slowly dies.
The contrast between Yuck and Yu(c)k is astonishing. Both are built around simple structures and arresting melodies, but to startlingly different effect. By all accounts tonight is a rare live performance, the large majority of time and energy going into the full band, and as such it is a particular privilege to have witnessed it. Whether Yu(c)k will ever be allowed to grow into a more substantial project remains to be seen, but even if it isn’t, tonight showcases a singular talent for songwriting that will no doubt deliver great things regardless of how it is channelled.