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Yo La Tengo – I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass – (music review)

Review by yltwatcher

Download Mp3’s of “Beanbag Chair” and “Pass the Hatchet, I Think I’m Goodkind”

Well the new Yo La Tengo album came out yesterday, and I bought it that day. I must say it is quite good, but at 78 minutes long and with such a wide variety of styles, it will take awhile for me to really absorb it and decide what I think of it. Right now I am alternating between thinking it is the White Album of indie rock and thinking that I find it oddly distant even though it is more fun than any other YLT release (barring the WFMU thingie, “Yo La Tengo is Murduring the Classics”). There are some real stunners on this album, especially Georgia’s “I feel Like Going Home”, Jame’s one contribution, “Black Flowers”, and the Belle and Sebastian-like “Beanbag Chair” and “I Should have Known Better”. The longer I listen to this album, the more I lean towards thinking it’s a classic and I begin to think it is at least nearly as good as “I Can Feel the Heart Beating as One”, if not more accomplished stylistically. I think part of my “distance” issue is with the production style and the way this album sounds on my car stereo. There are some frequency ranges that are nearly no-shows in my Jetta, and it makes it hard to be pulled in by albums with a certain sonic signature. The already midrange-centric, muddy production style (not in a bad way) is just not working well in my car. Need to break out the big-ass Sony studio monitor headphones this weekend (or steal the little M-Audio monitors I bought for the theater for the weekend). In short, this album is a grower.

If I felt safe enough to post a link to the attached song on your blog, Mike I would put it on the Yacht Rock section before I put it on the indie section, but instead, I am e-mailing you this low-res mp3 of the song I cannot get out of my head from the new album. YLT has never done anything quite like this one. Enjoy Mr. Tough. My 21-month old is singing along now (when she isn’t saying Chadd’s name with a dreamy look in her eyes).

You guys need to not only go see YLT at the Filmore, you need to go at least two of the three shows they are doing there. First, the opening act will likely be different each night, and there will be special guests they will bring up to play each time, mostly local artists of note. Second, with a 20 year discography and huge number of covers always played at their shows, the selections and vibe will be very different each night, so do yourself a favor and get to all of ’em if you can. And call me from the show if they play “Barnaby Hardly Working”, “Blue Line Swinger” or “I Heard You Looking.”

You MUST own this album! I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass

18 thoughts on “Yo La Tengo – I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass – (music review)

  1. Kind of everything good-like. My review makes it sound like I’m not sure if I like the album. I love it. People who know me realize that I think that the worst YLT album is better than 99.734% of the best of everyone else’s albums. Still singing “Hey, Mr. Tough” today.

  2. Mike – if you’re picking up albums, you should stay away from “And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out.” It is their least rockin’ and most loungey effort, so you may be lukewarm on it. It is also a masterpiece and my favorite YLT LP. Another one to avoid is the early album “Fakebook.” It’s an homage to 60’s pop, which you don’t really like, so don’t cut your Yo La Teeth on that one. But make no mistake, this album is a masterpiece too.

  3. Fantastic. You are starting on a long and important journey, fellow traveler. I hope that you will find what I and many others have found: that YLT are the greatest currently existing band in the world, and, should you ever have a chance to meet them or recieve a written response from them, some of the nicest, most unassuming, most clever people you would ever want to meet. Ira’s idiosynchratic guitar style is unattainable–a mix of accomplished musicianship, highly controlled feedback and moments absolute emotionally-charged, freaked-out abandon. They don’t call him “The Jewish Jimi Hendrix” for nothin’. To understand what I am talking about, ask Chadd to play you the following songs:Blue Line SwingerI Heard You LookingNowhere NearWe’re an American Band (no, it’s not THAT song)Sugarcube (the greatest garage rock song ever to come from an era other than the 60s)And he plays a mean Farfisa.His wife Georgia is the most underrated drummer and vocalist in indie rock, not even bringing gender into consideration, and James McNew finds just the right mix of simplicity and interest on his bass (and has made quite a few great solo recordings as Dump).They have impeccible taste and knowledge of music, love bbq and say they watch way too much TV to be considered intellectuals or “art rockers”. But they can write Sonic Youth songs better than Sonic Youth can. They supported My Bloody Valentine on their last ever tour, then released an album that took “Loveless” and made it democratic, approachable, and distinctly American (talkin’ ’bout 1993’s “Painful”, bitch!). They are often compared to VU (and played them in “I Shot Andy Warhol), but that does not even begin to describe their sound or influences, which range from the Kinks to Eleventh Dream Day to Beat Happening to New Zealand indie pop to the dBs to Big Star to ELO to Brian Eno to…well, you get the picture.Here is your shopping list (not necessarily the order I rate the albums quality-wise in, but the order I would suggest a newbie buy them in). A word of advice: Never just buy one YLT album at a time (unless you already have a stack a new one just hit the shelves), because you will get a skewed view of the band looking at just one release. For most people who are not groovin’ on the idea of spending lots of cash at once on an untested band, I suggest they buy the best of comp or these two albums first:-I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One (this is the one everyone says is their best, it is one of their most eclectic releases, and it’s on all the critics’ “best of the 90’s” lists)-Fakebook (very unique electro-acoustic album with a friendly back porch vibe and lots of great covers, many of them quite obscure)But if you are looking to get a whole bunch at once, here is my suggested order of priority for someone just starting out and looking for a road map (not really in order of my favorites):-I Can Hear the Heart (another note: this was the first album to have a single break into commercial “alternative” radio–they played “Autumn Sweater” a lot up in the Berkshires back in ’96)-Fakebook (brings a smile to my face everytime)-And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out (this is many newer fans’ fave…you may remember one of the songs from Chadd’s wedding)-Painful (has some of the best individual tracks of any YLT album (“From a Motel 6”, “Double Dare”, “Nowhere Near”, and the dazzling live staple “I Heard You Looking”), but overall just shy of the brilliance of a few of their others as a total album experience)-Electr-O-Pura (my personal fave for many years, but I am starting to re-examine that–“I Can Hear the Heart…” and “Painful” are just so damn good-Prisoners of Love (sort of a best of on 2 discs with a 3rd disc of rarities, many of which are totally amazing, and a few songs on the main discs that are from out-of-print E.P.s (“By the Time it Gets Dark”, the awesome Painful-era “Shaker”)–worth paying for a bunch of the other stuff twice in order to get)-Summer Sun (Chadd really digs this one)-President Yo La Tengo/New Wave Hot Dogs (these albums were re-released together on one disc for a nice price, and the first track, “Barnaby, Hardly Working”, is worth it alone)-Genius+Love=Yo La Tengo (a rarities and alternate takes comp from the late 90’s that is lots of fun–has one disc with vocal songs (including a phoned-in vocal by Daniel Johnston) and a 2nd disc with instrumentals)-Ride the Tiger-May I Sing of Me (has some really good songs, but as a whole, this early 90’s distortion and solo-fest is one of YLT’s few missteps)-Today is the Day (this EP has an awesome loud/fast version of the title cut and several good covers)-Little Honda (another EP with really good covers and some hidden live tracks)-Yo La Tengo Is Murdering the Classics (a hit-or-miss but always entertaining compilation of songs the band has covered live on-air in their numerous annual benefit shows for WFMU–make a pledge, the band plays a song of your choice!)-The Sounds of the Sounds of Science (beautiful and quirky soundtrack for a project YLT did where they would play music live to accompany showings of french avant-garde underwater nature films. Yeah.)-Danelectro (EP of some really good instrumentals)So where would I put “I Am Not Afraid of You…”? Somewhere towards the top, but how do you pick which of the albums on the list to kick down the ladder? It’s like picking your favorite child. Good luck.

  4. I bought it and I think it’s great. The Georgia song is definitely a > stand-out track. They’re songwriting is definitely evolving and getting > more and more complex. A pop sensibility is creeping into their music more > and more. Or is their music creeping into pop sensibility and changing it > from within. The opening track is old school Yo La Tengo and I’m wondering > if they’ll open their shows with it as well. Nobody does two chord droning > like they do. It’s just fucking awesome. But they’re slowly showing that > they can do anything and everything. > > They are amazing!

  5. I have to say that I’m not as in love with Mr. Tough at yltwatcher is but i do like it. i think i actually think the spectacular track is the going home one and i think that the beanbag is pretty killer.mike we should get tickets asapyou down?

  6. Yo La Tengo is a great band, in the studio and on stage. They are innovative, gifted, clever, etc.That said, I think yltwatcher has gotten a bit carried away in his homage-post to the band. I appreciate the zeal, but, after all, they are just a great rock band, like many others.I agree with much of what yltwatcher says, but he seems to go overboard in saying that Ira’s sound is unattainable, that Georgia is the most underrated drummer in Indie rock, and that they have impeccable taste and knowldge of music — not even sure what that means, in fact, or how to assess it.The only reason I post is because that kind of hyperbole often drives new listeners away from bands, in part becasue it sets them up for disappointment. Yo La Tengo is a breath of fresh air, for sure, and they make music for the ages. But the same goes for the Pixies, Dirty Three, Calexico, Guided By Voices, the Sea and Cake, and lots and lots of other “indie” bands. From my persective, it sometimes seems that the members of Rush are the most under-rated human beings of all time; that they are triplets born from the womb of some ancient Goddess of Music; that their music will some day unite the world in a single perfect sphere of bliss. . . But, then again, I shouldn’t let the inner fanboy carry me away. Listeneing to Roll the Bones always helps here.

  7. PAXTEJANA:Jack — relax.Get busy with the facts.No zodiacs or almanacs,No maniacs in polyester slacks.Just the facts.Gonna kick some gluteus max.Its a parallax — you dig? You move aroundThe small gets big. its a rig.Its action — reaction –Random interaction.So whos afraidOf a little abstraction? Cant get no satisfactionFrom the facts? You better run, homeboy –A facts a factFrom nome to rome, boy.Whats the deal? spin the wheel.If the dice are hot — take a shot.Play your cards. show us what you got –What youre holding.If the cards are cold,Dont go folding.Lady luck is golden;She favors the bold. thats cold.Stop throwing stones –The night has a thousand saxophones.So get out there and rock,And roll the bones.Get busy!

  8. paxtejana, you need to calm down. To help you do that, I suggest that if you get the opportunity, go see “Old Joy” a new film shot near Portland, currently in very limited release. It is the only American film ever to win an award at the International Film Festival in Rotterdam. More importantly, it stars Will Oldham of one of your desert island bands, Palace Music (or Palace Songs, or Palace Brothers, or whatever he happens to be calling himself on his current project) and the score is by Yo La Tengo.

  9. Yeah, Paxtejana, pop a pill for a minute and lay off yltwatcher, because I happen to agree about Yo La Tengo, don’t get me wrong I love Sea and Cake and Calexico but they just don’t quite rise up to the level of YLT.I just like bitchslapping Paxtejana.But Mike, the Pax is right, And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out is an out and out masterpiece but I think it may be the wrong way to get into YLT (Fakebook is another gem) for you. Then again, there are some folks who consider Flaming Lips “Yoshimi…” record is brilliant while “Soft Bulletin” falls on deaf ears. I think, and I can hear Paxtejana call a “hyperbole foul” on me for saying this, but I think “Soft Bulletin” may very well be the finest album of the 90’s. Bowie’s Earthling is pretty fantastic as well.You know, guys, the new YLT album might just be the perfect album for Mike to check out. I really like Summer Sun, though many people don’t and I don’t really know why. Mike probably shouldn’t begin with Painful either, but I like that one a lot.Isn’t Pax Tejana and old Loggins Massina album?

  10. Thanks for the tip on the movie – I will indeed check it out. Any of you Bay Area folks going to the Bonnie Prince show on Halloween? Yours truly will be there; I’ll also be at the YLT show on the 20th, marvelling at the site of YLTwatcher and Chadd tearing their clothing and crying ecstatic tears at the foot of their heroes thrones.

  11. Okay, so I have now listened to this album several times through, and I can say it is a classic–possibly the best YLT album since “I Can Hear the Heart…”. This one takes a few plays to really appreciate, even for a fan like me who has been right there with them since 1993’s Painful. This one is DEEP. I have reduced my number of complaints to only two, which will likely become none with a few more listens. They are that they could have shed one or two songs from the last third of this nearly 80-minute disc and instead used them for an EP or B-Side, and why the hell does the final song have to fade out at the end? These would not even be criticisms worth spending any time on for any other band, but these are incredibly high standards YLT has set in their 20+ year career, so I must bring them up. Now by the time I have finished writing the above sentence, my admiration for this album has grown enough that I am now left with only the offensive fade-out criticism. Every track is necessary. I see that now. Buy this CD. Then listen to it over and over for a few weeks. Then you will understand.

  12. I got the album! Checking it out now…I’m on “I feel like going home” and I’m about to start crying after being all hyped up after “Pass the hatched, I think I’m good kind”. Good stuff. Gotta get the tix now.

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