Yo La Tengo
If you haven’t heard of Yo La Tengo, you might not be alone. They never reached the heights of their contemporaries, like the commercial success of R.E.M. or the critical acclaim of Sonic Youth. What they have done is consistently put out great records for nearly 30 years. That’s a long time, especially if you count that in dog years (210, math skills yo).
13 albums after their killer debut back in ’86, they haven’t lost their style or grace. Yo La Tengo aren’t like the washed-up bands dropping new albums just to make some cash (see pretty much every band from the 80’s). They’ve always played on their terms, and flying under the radar of the masses has made them the ultimate Indie band. That’s right hipsters, it’s time to head to the record store and get some throwback Indie.
The new album Fade shows an old band that’s not weary, just more subdued. Where some bands attempt to be flashy, Yo La Tengo takes a step back and lets the music work. Their shows don’t feature pyrotechnics or fake blood, just like their albums doesn’t feature 20 minute bongo solos (which should only be allowed in hippie drum circles anyway).
On the first spin of this LP, I was almost bored. I was hoping for the noisy mastery of 2006’s I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass, or the alternative grooves of 1986’s Ride the Tiger. Then I listened to that album again, and again, and everyday for the last couple of weeks. It’s an album that grows on you so subtly you don’t even notice it. I doubt I’ll be seeing this on any year end best of lists, because it is so quietly perfect, you don’t even know that it even hit you. Kind of like a sneak ninja attack.
Just like a good cook (not me) knows the perfect recipe calls for just the right amount of each separate ingredient to be tossed in, Yo La Tengo treats each song as such, with not doing too little, nor doing too much, but getting the recipe just right. Fade opens with the psychedelic groove of “Ohm,” a six minute gem of a track, showing that a steady groove can be accentuated with just the right melody, noisy guitar, and shuffling groove.
The album shows the band wearing many hats, with the beautifully tender “The Point Of It” and “Cornelia and Jane” perfectly offsetting the rocking “Paddle Forward.” As diverse as the songs may be, they intertwine together so perfectly as a whole it makes listening to the album in its entirety a must. Yo La Tengo are definitely a far-cry from the Top 40 singles bands, and that’s a compliment.
The laid back “Two Trains” and mournful “I’ll Be Around” show a band not trying to prove anything, just making the music they want to hear, and being the band they want to be. Hulk Hogan told me I could be all I could be if I ate my vitamins. Or was that the Army that told me that, minus the vitamins?
The real gems of the album beyond the psych jamming of “Ohm” is the beautifully melodic single “Stupid Things,” and the outro track “Before We Run,” which steadily leads the album to a monstrous ending. Fortunately, at that point, you can do what I keep doing, and just start playing Fade all over again.
Can’t Miss: “Ohm,” “Stupid Things”, “Before We Run”
Can’t Hit: “Is That Enough”