We are living in a golden age of music videos. That might seem like an odd assessment of a time in which MTV has abandoned its original format in favour of reality shows and MuchMusic devotes a large chunk of its broadcast time to the likes of Pretty Little Liars and The Vampire Diaries. The primary outlet for videos has become the Internet, which means directors can include imagery that would be too much for Much. Bared breasts, say, or the expression of dogs’ anal glands.
Both of those feature prominently in the video for “Rubber” by the U.K.–based band Yuck. As the song—over seven minutes of gloriously fuzz-blitzed bass and white-squall guitar feedback—unfolds, a novice groomer shampoos, rinses, and blow-dries various canines while her thoughts drift to visions of her own naked body in the shower. Created by American director Michael Reich, the video is by turns erotic and repulsive, but what does it mean?
Reached on his cellphone in East London, Yuck’s Max Bloom admits he isn’t exactly sure. Reich conceived of the “Rubber” clip on his own and made it without much input from Bloom and his bandmates, who don’t even appear in it. “Michael got in contact with a treatment for that video, and it was really amazing,” says the guitarist. “It was really funny, actually, what he wanted to do for the video. He worded it in a really funny way, and I think that’s what made me want to do it.”
It was uncharacteristic of Yuck to hand over the creative reins. In general, the multinational band—which also includes singer-guitarist Daniel Blumberg, Japanese bassist Mariko Doi, and American drummer Jonny Rogoff, with Blumberg’s sister Ilana sometimes contributing vocals—likes to retain control over everything it does. That includes the production of its self-titled debut album, a collection of 12 songs that will resonate with anyone who came of age when Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., and Yo La Tengo were the kings and queens of the alt-rock nation. The album’s opening cut, “Get Away”, chugs along on a six-string lick that J Mascis might begrudgingly approve of, while “Holing Out” welds My Bloody Valentine’s wall-of-guitar assault to Teenage Fanclub’s pop penchant, and “Operation” comes on like “Teen Age Riot Version 2.0”.
Yuck is more than capable of taking things down a few notches, as it proves with the harmonious jangle of “Shook Down” and the mellow-gold twang of “Suck”. However, the outfit is arguably at its best when it gives its distortion pedals a good stomping and blasts away as if it were auditioning for a main-stage slot at Lollapalooza ’92.
Bloom and Blumberg, who write Yuck’s songs, have been quite up-front about the fact that most of their musical identity is rooted in the indie rock of the 1980s and ’90s. The two are in their (very) early 20s, and were losing themselves in secondhand copies of Bug and Bandwagonesque while their schoolmates were presumably obsessing over the Arctic Monkeys. Bloom says that, as a guitarist, he was drawn to the out-of-left-field innovations of players like Kevin Shields and Thurston Moore, and the fact that none of his peers had heard of the stuff he was into was just a bonus.
“If people are talking about a band and stuff like that, it makes it harder to have an unbiased perspective or listen to music and feel like you know it on a personal level,” he says. “That’s not the reason I listened to music, but it made it more special when I was hearing something that I really liked, because it was something that I could share with my close friends, and it would mean a lot.”
Which, in a roundabout way, brings us back to the “Rubber” video and what, if anything, it means. “People have found it really weird and disturbing,” Bloom admits. “I met someone in Florida who came up with all this philosophical meaning behind the video, and I was just so blown away because I’d never thought of it like that before. It’s interesting hearing how people have reacted to it.”