When was the last time you listened to rock? Like… just rock. Been a while, huh? Whether we dip back into the annals of time to revisit decades-old, yet still time-honored rock institutions our parents also loved, or we’re more indie-centric fans with a love for the scene that popped off in the 2000s, it’s no secret that rock’s fallen out of favor in modern popular music. Sure, ‘68 incorporate some elements that justify the bolting of “punk” and “noise” before the rock, but they’re ultimately merchants of the general sound, swollen with purpose and attitude just as the genre’s always been.
The most impressive part of ‘68 is what they accomplish as a simple duo. Even live, they want to remain true to form and function, never utilizing backing tracks, and if it can’t be adequately performed live, then it’s out. This is seen as an internal challenge rather than an excuse - after Josh Scogin’s time innovating in more loud areas of music with Norma Jean and The Chariot - his work in ‘68 instead feels sonorous; adequately vigorous and packed with attitude, channeling other similar bands while simultaneously outdoing them if producing the same massive sounds with less people were a vector of qualitative measure.
By any measure though, Yes, and… is impressive and fun. It really feels like selling it short to only call it rock when songs like “They All Agreed”, “The Captains Sat”, and “With Distance Between” exist on the same album and ride different waves. While I don’t like “With Distance Between” very much, it still represents a neat boiling point for Yes, and… as its first track, churning with heat and energy underneath the vibrating shell. Scogin’s vocals bring to mind the kind of vocal affectations that Cedric Bixler-Zavala would employ in The Mars Volta’s younger, chaotic days, or maybe Layne Staley’s performance on “God Smack”. The bolts rattle out of place and, eventually, at the end of the track you get a crescendo of loud rock majesty with buzzy guitar tones along with smashing drums from Nikko Yamada. The rest of the album is, basically, the wrangling of sounds unleashed by the first track’s inability to hold ‘68’s racket back, the breaking of a levee that allows for a torrent of astute musicianship unburdened with the overly beauteous, sterile standards of a lot of modern music.
A lot of Yes, and… is resplendent with melody and catchy parts that wouldn’t be out of place on rock radio, at least some years back, alongside bands like Queens of the Stone Age or Muse when they were worth a shit. “The Captains Sat” is exemplary of this with a groovy guitar passage to open the song and carry it throughout while the vocals sprinkle on top with enunciated yells. “Removed Their Hooks” sees the band being a bit self-aware of this with the lyrics, “But you could kill them with the melody/Well, tell me something that I don’t know”. It follows up “The Captains Sat” with the same mood: upbeat and fierce, with some room to slow down and grow outward, but not all moments like this are created equal.
“They All Agreed” is a respite from the action, if ‘68 were ever capable of one. Dreary singing and more concerted, understated drumming from Yamada shows a different, viable side of ‘68 for sure, but it’s not quite for me. What is for me is the last track. “Within the Hour, They Were No More” feels like a big, triumphant end with huge guitars, splashy drums, and enough texture to rival the stucco on the outside of a house. It still makes room for these moments of openness and for Scogin’s vocals to pull back in volume and aggression, and the effects used on everything are tasteful. The track is bookended by dense, explosive riffing that makes for one of the coolest parts of Yes, and…
Comparatively to what we usually cover - and what I typically listen to - this is some straightforward rawk ‘n’ rowl, and as someone that doesn’t make much effort to look for this kind of stuff too often, I’m always happy when I come across it. A couple missed opportunities doesn’t stop Yes, and… from being a unit of an album with two musicians having a blast doing their thing. It’s inspiring and incisive, not bogged down by the bullshit and that alone is pretty admirable.
Bottom line: ‘68 is a bit of a phenomenon: two dudes doing just about anything they can to hustle sounds out of their instruments. Anyone that’s seen them live have nothing but awesome things to say about them and I can’t imagine this album not wildly bolstering their repertoire as they tour it soon. Yes, and… isn’t perfect, but it’s great fun - sometimes that’s all you need.