Friday, November 24, 2006

Yo La Tengo, "I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass"

I have patiently and repeatedly requested an Animal Collective album composed of nothing but two-minute pop songs plus a couple of twelve-minute epics. In a stroke of dumb luck, one band seemingly channelled my plea through the ether and actually made that record.

The new Yo La Tengo album sounds like the rebirth of a band that looked to be stagnating after the release of the ignorably pleasant "Summer Sun". Even the album title sounds like the work of a newly motivated band. It's a diverse record on par with "I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One", where Velvet-y garage rock rubs shoulders with songs made for holding hands while whistling in the park. Nearly everything is reined into short, three minute bursts. "I Should Have Known Better" and "Watch Out for Me Ronnie" rip through the heart of the album like bolts of lightning, channeling 60's garage-punk like it's always been their calling. These are the types of tracks I figured they couldn't be bothered making these days. On the other side of the coin, "Sometimes I Don't Get You" and "The Weakest Part" are upbeat, enchanting love songs -- very distinct from the more conflict-driven relationship dramas from "And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out".

But the highlight of the album, if not their career, is the closer, "The Story Of Yo La Tengo". I always found "I Heard You Looking" and "Blue Line Swinger" to be album lowlights, blustery attempts to indulge in jam band fantasies just for the sake of it. However, "The Story of ..." ... this is IT, the minimal, monochord epic masterpiece they've been shooting for all along ... "Sugarcube" arranged by Spiritualized, with more than ten minutes of shredding guitars, chaotic horns, making this (among other things) the best Stooges song ever.

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