Release Date: Jul 9, 2013
Record label: ATP Recordings
Daniel Blumberg rose to indie rock fame with the debut album of his old band, ‘90s indie rock revivalists Yuck. He shocked everyone last year by announcing that he was leaving Yuck to start a new project called Hebronix and Unreal is the result. Where Yuck was often more or less a rehash of ideas and sounds already thoroughly explored in 1990s indie rock, Hebronix takes those ‘90s sounds and brings them to new places.
At just 23, Daniel Blumberg already has three debut albums under his belt: In addition to Yuck, with whom he recently parted ways, he's also released albums with his early band Cajun Dance Party and as a solo side project called Oupa. His latest endeavor, Hebronix, a collaboration with Neil Hagerty of veteran alt-rockers Royal Trux, sees the Dinosaur Jr.-style swagger of Yuck slowed to a stoned stroll. Unreal's six songs sprawl unhurriedly across seven or eight minutes apiece, full of intricate details and pretty touches that reward repeated listens.
HebronixUnreal[ATP Recordings; 2013]By Rob Hakimian; July 30, 2013Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetIn the last five or so years Daniel Blumberg has released music under a number of different monikers, starting with the jaunty indie-pop band Cajun Dance Party, before moving onto his most successful project, Yuck, and also finding the time to release some solo piano ballads as Oupa. Blumberg only stuck with each name for one significant release, before moving on to the next, and now Hebronix comes as his fourth re-start, teaming up with ex-Royal Trux front man Neil Hagerty this time out. There are still hints of his previous work in Unreal; the jazzmaster is still his main weapon of choice as it was in Yuck, and the ballady side that he showed with Oupa crops up in small doses.
It came as some surprise when, in early 2013, it was announced that Daniel Blumberg was to leave Yuck after just one self-titled album that fizzed, popped, and fuzzed excitedly with an early-'90s indie rock spirit. Blumberg, along with Max Bloom, had previously been the driving force behind twee indie popsters Cajun Dance Party, who were lauded by the press and labeled the next big thing circa 2008 before the pair broke away to create something far moodier and indebted to the likes of Sonic Youth and Pavement. This musical U-turn appeared to be just what Daniel Blumberg had wanted but, if Unreal is anything to go by, he is keen to dig further away from the mainstream still to find his place with Hebronix.
Six slices of warm fuzziness from the former Yuck man James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem tells a story about how he used to lie on the floor of his family house listening to the warm hum of the electrical appliances. He says that his music ever since has been concerned with relocating the feeling of safety and love he found in that static noise. Daniel Blumberg, formerly of Yuck and now making his way gingerly into the world of solo performance under his Hebronix moniker, would surely relate.
Back in April, a Facebook post from the band Yuck announced that frontman Daniel Blumberg had left the British ‘90s-rock-revivalist foursome “to focus on other things.” Those “things” were defined little more than a week later with the unveiling of Blumberg’s new project, Hebronix, and a new song, titled “Unreal.” The drum part on the single plodded so loosely that it felt like the rhythm was about to fall off. The swarms of guitar that fell in between sounded like they were scribbled out by a guitarist finishing his set with his back flat against the stage. The whole thing felt like one sustained ending, a seven-and-a-half-minute unwind.
When Daniel Blumberg yelped “I can’t get away!” on Yuck’s self-titled album, it felt like a prime example of their period-specific craftsmanship: the buzzy, hooky guitars and explosive alt-rock dynamics signify a sort of overwhelming, ill-defined angst and here was a perfect, all-purpose phrase giving it a voice. Now that Yuck is carrying on without its primary frontman, the vagueness of that lyric allows us to reverse engineer Blumberg’s personal life into it. First there was Cajun Dance Party, then there was Yuck, then there was Oupa, and now here’s Hebronix-- in the past five years, Blumberg's released widely available records with four different, awkwardly named bands.
I’ve always had a soft spot for Daniel Blumberg. Having both graduated from the teenage class revolving around the All Age Concerts hub (him at the altar, me as acolyte), his fronting of tipped-for-glory twee-poppers Cajun Dance Party led me variously from school battle of the bands competitions (where they beat off the then subordinate Bombay Bicycle Club) to a headline show at King’s College – a show opened by the debut show of one Florence, minus machine. His second attempt at a band, Yuck, mirrored a personal dive into a Nineties flipside, resulting in a souped-up spin on the grunge greats.
Daniel Blumberg, AKA Hebronix, was in exuberant indie band Cajun Dance Party when he was just 15, and recently left Yuck, whose 2011 debut album of latterday grunge was favourably reviewed without making a mainstream impact. No wonder that Unreal has a reflective, thoughtful air as he contemplates what he's done and where he's going. "I'm not where I wanna be," he drawls, frankly.
As far as opening tracks go, a 10-minute song rarely makes for an easy introduction. But former Yuck and Cajun Dance Party frontman Daniel Blumberg, now working on his own under the name Hebronix, doesn’t waste time saddling listeners with the weight of his labor on Unreal. “Unliving”, the record’s first cut, is a sprawling, cathartic mess, oscillating between precious singer/songwriter fare and his former band’s more ambient ’90s guitar rock over the course of 10:10.
There was a collective grump on the day Daniel Blumberg announced his departure from Yuck. The one-time Cajun Dance Party man broke it off with his former band in order to concentrate on making his own material – it was a bittersweet announcement. When he finally re-emerged as Hebronix, the entire blogosphere seemingly perked up at once, like dogs sniffing the rich aroma of raw steak, jowls a-flutter with whisperings of snippets of rumours and ctrl-v-ing of his new track, ‘Unreal’.
Yuck’s self-titled debut arrived at a curious time. The last few years have seen guitar-driven ’90s alt-rock icons like Pavement, Dinosaur Jr, Guided By Voices and My Bloody Valentine reform for comeback tours and even albums in certain cases, flooding the market with heavily-distorted nostalgia. Standing out as a “new” band in that genre isn’t an easy task when going up against the returning titans of indie rock, but Yuck was able to establish a distinct, youthful take on some very familiar ideas.
Hebronix is the solo project of former Yuck and Cajun Dance Party frontman Daniel Blumberg, and although elements of both his previous bands can be heard on debut release ‘Unreal’, you get the sense he’s relishing his new-found freedom. Possibly a little bit too much…After the strict and straight-forward guitars/drums/bass/vocals setup of Yuck, Blumberg has well and truly opened the instrumentation flood-gates with Hebronix. Sure, his charming, strained vocals and fuzzy, post-grunge guitar work is still there, but now we have flutes, string sections, horns, and synthesisers all making appearances.