Yo La Tengo - I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass
As with the passing of all “Best Of” collections, they can't help but bookend a career, or stage in a career. With the release of Yo La Tengo's fantastic "Prisoners Of Love" collection last year, their fan base were wondering if this was the end of the road. Twelve albums in over 20 years have built YLT an almost cult following - the band built around the singer-guitarist Ira Kaplan and his wife, drummer-vocalist Georgia Hubley - and have produced some of the most adventurous, eclectic and moving music to have come out of the USA. Compared frequently to The Velvet Underground, Sonic Youth and Sun Ra, they've never completely removed themselves from making moving, sometimes romantic, songs that can veer from drone-rock epics to cute-whispered love songs.
Their new album, "I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass", may win the prize for the Best Album Title Of The Year, but it goes to prove their outlook and humour that's been there in the past, but perhaps never fully realised. The album kicks off with the fantastic drone-epic "Pass The Hatchet", just over ten minutes of cyclical rock with a bass-heavy thump and feedback-drenched guitars that actually makes you want to dance. This is the kind of thing Sonic Youth would have turned into a something disappointing and boring, but in YLT's hands it's turned into something altogether sexier, more focused in its meanderings. Kaplin's spaced out vocals washing over the music, drifting in between the instruments and sounding not unlike Spiritualized at their best.
You're then jarred back into semi-normality with "Beanbag Chair", a love song of sorts and a possible missing link between Belle & Sebastian and American indie music. "I Feel Like Going Home" is back on familiar turf, folk-tinged with strings and echo-guitar with Hubley's perfect vocals proud in the mix. "Instrumental" allows the band to focus on their more experimental side, a track based around, what sounds liked, a camp fire crackle entwined with a simple piano line and guitar chords that's hauntingly beautiful. In complete contrast to this is "Mr Tough", sounding like something Prince recorded back in the 80's - all funk and high-pitched vocals, not quite something you'd imagine YLT doing.
In fact, if there's one problem with this album it's the schizophrenic nature of it. It seems as though YLT are looking back across their back catalogue, picking the best bits and trying to create an album pulling all their past into the present. There's nothing wrong with ambition, but a little more consistency would make this pitch perfect - as it jumps around various styles it's hard to concentrate on the essence of the album as a whole and what they're trying to say. But this is a minor quibble.
The album ends with another post-rock epic, "The Story Of...", clocking in at just under twelve minutes, it seems fitting to end this journey in a mountain of feedback. After all this time YLT seem to be happy in their skin and with the beautiful sounds they're creating. "I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass" is the sound of a band re-imagining their past, taking in all their previous influences and distilling them into one pure and classic record.
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Last updated: 26/06/2018 13:31:40