So why is Yolk on this best 1,000 albums ever thing?
We did it! We’re here. Well, we’re halfway here (there?), or ever so slightly past halfway, technically.
This is the 501st album “entry” or article or blog post (or whatever!) on our journey through the best 1,000 albums ever. Which means we’re entering the “top 500,” or the place where Rolling Stone only begins their greatest 500 album rankings.
We’re into the best of the best stuff (ever), in other words. It’s taken literal years of research and writing to get to this point, and I couldn’t be more excited about what’s coming up.
Part of that excitement is the opportunity to share albums by artists that many or even most people have never heard of.
Yolk is a band that hails from my college town of Binghamton, New York, and I think there’s a pretty clear argument that Yolk is the single best band to ever come out of that city.
Whereas Yolk’s second album, Caution: Social Prescriptions May Cause Side Effects (#721 of best 1,000 albums ever), reminds me much of my post-collegiate days exploring New York City’s nightlife, Yolk’s eponymous debut album brings me back – time warp-style – to my freshman year at good old Binghamton University, called SUNY (State of University of New York) Binghamton in those days.
The first time I saw Yolk, I believe they were called Groove Socket at the time, which should get an award for the Most Upstate New York Band Name Ever (1990s edition). I recall having the striking feeling of, “Uh, okay, I guess I’m in college now,” during the show.
The horn players and guitarist – wearing a trucker-style hat during an era when you really didn’t see that… except, you know, on truckers – seemed impossibly talented, impossibly coordinated, playing this style of music that I had never heard before: a wild and eclectic mashup of funk, rock, and jazz sensibilities. But more than anything, they went hard, fronted by Jimmyjohn McCabe, an intense dude with a low, striking voice.
Yolk the album isn’t perfect by any means, and suffers a little on the production side. But I’ll argue that its scruffiness serves it well overall, conveying much of the excitement of seeing the band live during their early years.
“So This Is Heaven” is my favorite Yolk song. I “rediscovered” it several years ago, and these days I still listen to it constantly. For example, it’s the #7 song on my “Your Top Songs 2022” playlist on Spotify… and the #1 song on my “Your Top Songs 2021” edition.
The horn riff is simply magnificent and catchy, and the way the entire band fuses together is like some wild fusion of funk, rock, and klezmer music. The lyrics, as is true for all of Yolk’s music, are soulful and wise beyond the band’s years.
“An Ugly Truth” leans into the band’s hard funk wheelhouse, but as always it’s never straight forward with Yolk. Jazzy horn riffs and fantastic pop hooks abound throughout that keep things exciting throughout. Lyrically, you can read this one as a call to wake up politically (“ignorance… is bliss”).
“Green” has really grown on me over the years. A… well, kind of early ‘90s funk riff opens the song*, but that segues into a super soulful funk groove backed as ever by one of the most inventive horn sections that you will ever hear in popular music.
* No, it’s NOT Seinfeld-y, really, but I could see the dots connecting on that one for some people.
Personal stuff that’s somehow related to Yolk
Speaking of impossibly talented musicians, here’s a mildly/horribly embarrassing story from my freshman year of college that relates to music.
As I’ve mentioned a few times, I played the double or “stand up” bass in the university symphony*. The “first chair” was this guy who I’ll call Fred Stamp to protect the innocent. Fred was kind of a jazz hipster upperclassman, and was cool and friendly enough to yours truly. Importantly, Fred was also flat out great at playing the standup bass, and would play cool jazzy walking bass lines during rehearsal breaks and stuff.
* Short version of that story: I wasn’t very good, had a stark epiphany during my sophomore year that I was continuing to participate in the orchestra out of a sense of obligation that playing an “unusual” instrument helped get me into the college I wanted to attend, and then I never touched the thing again.
Cut to my man Adam and I at a house party somewhere off campus. The place was crowded, and I imagine that the two of us enjoyed a collegiate beverage or two. At some point, I decide to gush on and on about how bloody brilliant the amazing and indomitable Fred Stamp is and…
And yeah, he standing right behind me. He hears… he hears enough. What I recall most clearly is that he looked pretty freaked out.
Now, keep in mind that this was the 1990s, we were young Gen X, and therefore appearing ironical and dispassionate was in vogue. But mostly I was a young, insecure, college kid trying to figure it all out, and so this qualified as a mortifying moment in my young adult life.
Social apocalypse was a term I would later hear, and it certainly applied here.
To this day, the “Fred Stamp story” remains a code word for Adam and I, relating to the cautionary tale that boils down to the admonition of: don’t be that guy.
Okay, one more bonus mildly/horribly embarrassing story: I lived in Johnson Hall during my first two years at Binghamton, which was one of a number of dorms (I want to say six, offhand) that formed Dickinson Community. This meant that I ate many meals during those years – and tack on a third, when I was a Resident Advisor (with my own room, woo!) in another Dickinson dorm (Digman Hall, I think?) – at good old Dickinson dining hall.
I mention all of this because one day I took my tray to the cash register, and I recognized the guy working the register immediately: it was Jimmyjohn McCabe, lead singer of Yolk.
It was too late to shut down my expression of recognition. And it was awkward*.
* As were so many of my early college experiences!
I think I mumbled something like, “Hey man, you guys are great,” and he probably mumbled something back like, “Thanks.”
I don’t think I saw him there again. I hope it wasn’t my interaction with him that caused him to quit. And I certainly hope that this anecdote did not take on any of the legend resembling that of the Far Beyond Guy.
Some stats & info about Yolk
- What kind of musical stylings does this album represent? Rock Music, Funk, Dance Music, Alternative Metal, Hard Rock, New York Bands
- Rolling Stone’s greatest 500 albums ranking – not ranked!
- All Music’s rating – 2.5 out of 5 stars (!?)
- When was Yolk released? 1993
- My ranking, the one you’re reading right now – #500 out of 1,000
Yolk on Spotify
A lyrical snippet from Yolk that’s evocative of the album in some way, maybe
Capturing beauty of something as precious as life.
What does the “best 1,000 albums ever” mean and why are you doing this?
Yeah, I know it’s audacious, a little crazy (okay, maybe a lot cray cray), bordering on criminal nerdery.
But here’s what it’s NOT: a definitive list of the Greatest Albums of All-Time. This is 100% my own personal super biased, incredibly subjective review of what my top 1,000 albums are, ranked in painstaking order over the course of doing research for nearly a year, Rob from High Fidelity style. Find out more about why I embarked on a best 1,000 albums ever project.