The song you’ll probably get caught up on is “Victory Lap.” It’s the album-closer and one of the few moments of relative calm on Yeesh’s otherwise very noisy posthumous album, Saw You Up There. More than that, though, it’s a weary, worthy ode to being entirely too old for this shit.
“I feel nothing but old” the song goes, as background “sha nah nahs” cascade down and the three-piece band sounds like it’s trying to recreate every detail of the late 90s / early aughts DC post-punk sound all at once. It works, and that’s before the second-verse reveal kicks in and you get a sense of what this song is really about (“band starts / takes the stage / music plays / man, what a waste / because I feel nothing at all). Long before the song, album, and band fade out, you’ve connected the dots as to why this, specifically, is the closing track on a dead band’s last album.
Beyond that minor triumph of sequencing and subject, Saw You Up There is a wordy, screamy, aggressive swan song that positions the Chicago trio as the rightful heirs to the kind of intelligent, teeth-on-tinfoil rock that The Dismemberment Plan (spiritually) and Shellac (tangibly) manufactured at their relative peaks. Yeesh broke up in 2017; paradoxically, the record makes a case for how a band like this could be relevant and future-looking in 2019 and beyond.
That said, for all the genre-bending and amalgamation that Yeesh gets up to here, some of the record’s most satisfying moments are its most straightforward. The pleasure of a song like “Shagohad” is in how you can feel the pounding of the drums in your chest, feel the stabbing guitar riff in your closed eyes. It’s a song that wants to hurt you. That goes double for “Escape Plan,” which plays like someone elbowing you on the stairs during a fire drill. These tracks find the band squarely in the Albini / Falkous lane, which is a lane bands don’t (or can’t) take often enough. That the group can just as convincingly pull off a twinkle-emo song (“Just Shy”) minutes after blowing a hole in your chest is a testament to their versatility.
The other song you might find yourself stuck on is “The Crossing,” which sounds like all of the Midwest falling down the stairs at the same time. The way the song moves from heavy rock, to something almost Foo Fighters-ish, to a Life Without Buildings / Cap’n Jazz emo bridge, back into chaos … look, you’re not going to find a lot of bands that can stitch those ideas together an not only make them talk to each other, but work together. “Can you survive another day?” the song asks. The repeat button is answer enough.
The temptation here is to paint the band as collage artists, taking bits and pieces of the regional rock scenes of the last 15 years and melding them into something new, but the risk of that route is underselling just how catchy and affirming a lot of this stuff is. Sure, you can hear a song like “Soft Left” and note the Dismemberment Plan chorus (the way the vocals waver on the delivery of “Soft Left” will either sound cool or invoke Change flashbacks), but that ignores the ineffable joy of force in much of this album. You get the sense that Yeesh, knowing this was to be their final document, threw their entire weight into the record. Sometimes you don’t want to see the sweat, other times you want it to drip onto you. Guess which situation this is.
We’ll leave it where Saw You Up There does, with “Victory Lap,” the band galloping into its end, bellowing “From the top boys / let’s do this again.” It’s always going to be someone else’s time. May the next great basement also-rans find the light that Yeesh has left on for the future of angular, smart, angry rock.