Yuck / Alvvays Il Motore, Montreal QC, January 16

Yuck / Alvvays Il Motore, Montreal QC, January 16
Photo: Matt Bobkin
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Aside from the pronunciation of their name, Alvvays is a pretty straightforward band. The Toronto quintet brought fun, reverb-soaked tunes that greeted the steady stream of patrons to the venue, the music glossy and groovy enough to prompt a pair of concertgoers to bust out their best dance moves. Lead singer Molly Rankin was admittedly quite inebriated, but that didn't stop her from passionately leading the group through some tunes off of their upcoming debut full-length album. Armed with some solid synth work and bopping basslines, Alvvays set a nice, warm mood for the evening. "Party Police," a moody number filled with hooks, firmly demonstrated that the band has potential. While the guitars occasionally washed out Rankin's voice, and the mix tended to get muddy, the band put on a decent opening set. And to quell any suspense, it's pronounced "Always."

There's an incorrect assumption in the contemporary rock world that the lead singer is the sun around which the rest of the band revolves; without them, the band's universe ceases to exist. This conjecture doesn't apply to Yuck, who continue to craft their lo-fi rock after the departure of former lead singer Daniel Blumberg. Blumberg's exit from the outfit he founded in 2009 could have been a death knell, but a sophomore album, 2013's Glow and Behold, and extensive tour have proven that the London-based group is here to stay, even without the man who brought them together.

Where Glow and Behold brought an upswing in sonic production and plenty of horns and synths to Yuck's chilled-out, almost shoegaze-y sound, the live performance instead returned to the band's initial lo-fi vibe. Though the mood was quite tranquil, the band seemed fantastically aloof, meeting the audience with stony expressions as they methodically plodded through the tracks. While new singer Max Bloom's brief between-song comments featured a slight burst of emotion, his performance persona was drab; even when tasked with a guitar solo, Bloom's poker face seemed soldered on. No matter the lyrical content, Bloom's look was blank, thus lyrics such as "say what you want, it's nothing new" came off as the world's mellowest threat. More often than not, Bloom came off not as a frontman, but as a member of the band who just happened to sing the most. Still, the low-energy atmosphere snugly fit the lackadaisical songs.

Delicately balanced between material from their self-titled debut record and Glow and Behold, the band's music inspired little more than headnodding, but also brought calculated riffs and a sense of calm. Even during a track like "Get Away" from their debut record, the band managed to rock whilst remaining relaxed. The band also gave a glimpse into their future with a new song, played live for only the fourth time according to Bloom. If Glow and Behold sought to undo the endless stream of Dinosaur Jr. comparisons, this new song negated that reversal, featuring a wailing guitar tone on top of a thumping rhythm for a tune that would've fit right in on Yuck's self-titled debut.

After wrapping up with "Operation" from their debut, the band quickly retreated to the bar for all of one minute before a quick round of rhythmic clapping brought them back to the stage for a two-song encore. "Memorial Fields" from Glow and Behold and "Georgia" from their self-titled debut showcased the biggest dichotomy of the band's sound: the former was a rocking, reverb-soaked slow-dance number, the latter a high-energy tune featuring dual vocals from Bloom and bassist Mariko Doi. Wrapping up with this musical paradox provided a decent burst of vigour to an often-lulled set. Yuck's new lineup has yet to captivate, but their stage presence definitely matched their steely, chilled-out tunes.