So – I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Kick Your Ass is clearly too long and a couple of tracks could have been ditched to drag it in under the hour mark. Having said that, the tracks to be chucked would still be bloody great.
Yo La Tengo – I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass
What's not to like about Yo La Tengo? After all, they can turn their hand to anything. You want rock wig outs? They can do that. Dream pop? Easy. Haunting instrumentals? Got that covered too. And do you want your monies worth? Well, you always get that with Yo La Tengo – their current album clocks in at 77 minutes. Only Sufjan Stevens is as concerned as they are with filling a CD. So...
So what's my problem with Yo La Tengo? That's what was running though my mind when I put this CD on. It's certainly not that I don't like them, I was thinking, it's just that I don't love them. And everything about them suggests that I should. Is it the fact that they are so damned proficient? Is it because they are like master craftsmen – easier to appreciate than to adore? Perhaps current album I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass would sort out these solipsistic musings.
Opener Pass the Hatchet, I Think I'm Goodkind is a cracking, eleven-minute rock wig out. A thudding, grinding, monotonous, head-banging, Velvet-esque rock song. It's great. Similarly, album closer, The Story of Yo La Tengo is a slow-burning song that by the end of its twelve minutes also is in full on berserker mode. Between these extremes almost all forms of music are tackled. As Forrest Gump (the fucker) would have said, life is a like a Yo La Tengo album. Second track Beanbag Chair is a breezy catchy pop song, complete with plinkety plonk piano and trumpet. It's lovely. I Feel Like Going Home is a beautifully melancholic song based around piano and violin. Halfway through a guitar replaces the voice but the mood – wintry and sad – remains. Then we get Mr. Tough, an upbeat and faintly jazzy pop song sung in falsetto. Brass instruments have a lot of fun with the summery and even faintly ridiculous song. Again, it's great. Black Flowers follows and it's a beautiful track based around piano, cello and trombone. Military drumming backs a song that is gentle and swooning and wise.
The Race Is On Again has a sixties psychedelic vibe going on whilst The Room Got Heavy is initially based around tom toms and a fuzzed out guitar. Old school keyboards and druggy vocals justify the title and – unbelievably – we have two songs on the trot that kind of go together! The latter song, incidentally, is also brilliant. It manages to lovingly create the feeling people must have had (just prior to collapsing) when they were dancing in a sixties club to a great garage band. Sometimes I Don't Get You returns to jazzy pop and once again it does it very well. Daphnia is a kind of mid-way sorbet. Static, a chiming guitar, piano and shimmering effects noodle away for eight or nine minutes. Palate suitably cleansed I Should Have Known Better is a raucous pop song complete with sixties organ stylings and reminded me, at times, of As Tears Go By. Watch Out For Me Ronnie is another pop song, although this one manages to mix fifties rockabilly and sixties garage music. Of course, it's great. And so we go on. We even get a gentle ballad (Song For Mahila) before the end.
So – I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass is clearly too long and a couple of tracks could have been ditched to drag it in under the hour mark. Having said that, the tracks to be chucked would still be bloody great. It's also YLT at their most playful and fun and the sequencing means it is something of a magical mystery tour. And the album is magical: it's clever and it's honest, beautiful and powerful. It rocks, it swings and it even makes you smile. I like it very much – in fact, I might almost...