The debut album from Milwaukee indie-rock band Yum Yum Cult, It Kills Me It Really Does, opens with a waking dream. “Oh, sleepless me whose deficits fight consistently / Opposed to war, I was drafted at birth” croons singer Palmer Shah over a hazy wash of guitars and organs. Moments later, “The Catalyst” switches gears into a bouncy and crunchy groove, with Shah and company—Sean Anderson on bass, Myles Coyne on keyboard, Charlie Celenza on drums—effortlessly radiating in-the-pocket jam-band vibes. The five-minute track has plenty more surprises in store, too. It’s an unpredictable ride, and one of Yum Yum Cult’s most realized and satisfying songs.

It’s also a handy blueprint for the rest of It Kills Me. Street festival funk gives way to frazzled punk. Woozy waltzes cozy up next to slinky roadhouse rockers. Often, these mood changes happen from track to track, though sometimes they take place within the same song. Two of the record’s songs—the mysterious “Up In The Tenement” and the sparkling “Convenience & Me”—date back to 2019 and 2020, respectively. With It Kills Me, they finally find themselves slotted on a proper debut release. Their seven neighboring tracks are no slouches, either.

“What I Do In The Night” is an early surprise, an increasingly unhinged, scream-y, and Pixies-esque barn burner. The end-of-the-empire “Octavius” and the manic “Push That Rock Up That Cliff” follow suit—the former with fiery images of media circuses and “porn stars and incest,” the latter with whirling organs and full-band yelps. On the softer side of things, “If Talk’s All It Is” shows off both the group’s knack for mid-song style shifts and Shah’s knack for literate and verbose lyrics. (Try singing “The question persists: Can we keep things platonic? / Dilute the debate, another gin and tonic” ten times fast.) Meanwhile, the record’s sort-of title track, “You Kill Me You Really Do,” is a hushed 60-second instrumental scene-setter for “Up In The Tenement.” Another waking dream.

Kills Me ends with its hands-down loveliest track, “Wednesday’s Brevity.” This is Shah and band back in crooner/groove mode, but the song’s subject matter—two old flames catching up and marveling at “the beauty, the growth, the change that makes a life”—is a poignant standout. “But then the house lights came on and we wondered where the time went / We let our eyes say all the things we left out verbally,” Shah sings. He doesn’t leave out much verbally on It Kills Me It Really Does. Yum Yum Cult doesn’t leave out much musically, either.

Yum Yum Cult will celebrate the release of It Kills Me It Really Does Saturday, September 17 (after the Bay View Bash) at Cactus Club. LUXI and Moonglow will play in support.

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Matt Wild weighs between 140 and 145 pounds. He lives on Milwaukee's east side.

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