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.
It’s an outsized musical portion, but it’s also one that defines the record’s ambitious — if not always focused — feel. Unreal lacks direction in a way that Blumberg’s work with Yuck never did. While that band demonstrated a firm grasp on cut-to-the chase, two-to-three-minute pop songs, Hebronix finds Blumberg adrift and left to find his own musical way.
Still, Unreal shows promise. There are growing pains for sure, but there’s also evidence to suggest that Blumberg has the instincts and verve to fend for himself as a solo artist. Songs like “Viral” and Wild Whim” still spin inside Blumberg’s lo-fi wheelhouse, but those familiar sounds are embellished in stretches with strings, organs, and other instrumentation that would have gotten lost in Yuck’s viscous, guitar-heavy ways. There’s an airiness here, particularly on the title track, which floats breezily like a Neil Young song lost in space, while Blumberg taps into the song’s sedate headspace with literate feeling.
But for all the novel ideas and soundscapes Blumberg packs into Unreal, the record gets dragged down by excess. There’s a lot of fat to carve away, the result of too many seven-plus minute tunes, and it’s hard not to think the album could’ve been better served with some significant trimming. That said, there are special moments to be found in this disjointed musical grab bag, so if nothing else, the record at least gives enough reason to keep an open ear for what comes next.
Essential tracks: “Viral”, “Unreal”, and “Wild Whim”