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I was massively MASSIVELY into Yo La Tengo for many, many, years. Pretty much from ‘New Wave Hot Dogs’ through to ‘I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One’, they were one of those bands I’d buy their new record on day of release and never be disappointed. From there on, though, I pretty much lost interest...something that I just can’t put my finger on was lost from their sound and they never really got it back.
I was looking forward to this album mainly because of the picture of them underneath a huge tree on the front cover. Those who know me know how much I like trees and surely no album with a sleeve like that will turn out disappointing. Opener ‘Ohm’ is a blitzkrieg start, with a ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ type shuffly beat underpinning a one chord churn and some neat chanted vocals ending in an archetypal Neil Young-esque guitar solo. ‘Is That Enough’ is one of their countrified lilts that littered their previous album ‘I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass’. It’s cheesy and inconsequential and should have been strangled at birth. Better is ‘Well You Better’ which drifts along sounding something like Stereolab playing Esquivel with neat gloopy organ and wandering bass.
‘Paddle Forward’ is MUCH better, it sounds like pretty much every song they wrote around the time of ‘I Can Hear the Heart...’ but thats fine - a nice plaintive lo-fi stomp. There’s the odd moment where they sound not unlike Lambchop - ‘I’ll be Around’ features lovely finger picked guitars and Ira Kaplan’s whispered baritone and the latter half of the album is concerned with the type of slow minimal dirges that made ‘And Nothing Will Turn Itself Inside Out’ so soporific - even to the point of using the exact same drum machine setting. Yo La Tengo usually end their albums with something a bit more vital, closer ‘Before we Run’ adds horns and some lovely Georgia Hubley vocals but never explodes into anything more.
I’d like to see Yo La Tengo getting back to the garage and creating something with a bit more meat to it, they need to get out all those old Velvets, Neil Young and Can albums again and really go for it. This is the third album in a row where for large portions of it they sound half asleep. Don’t get me wrong, there are some splendidly lovely moments scattered within but this band is not a patch of what they were and where they once surprised at every turn, you now have a very safe idea of what you are going to get.
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