Monday, January 14th, 2013
Review of Yo La Tengo’s Fade
Carlie ArmstrongNot much stays fresh after 30 years, particularly something as fleeting as creativity, and not even a band that’s as stylistically rangy as Yo La Tengo is immune to the of feeling of repeating themselves. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as their last release – 2009’s Popular Songs – was an enjoyable summation of everything Yo La Tengo has done well over the past three decades or so, from concise poppers to sprawling rockers on the x-axis and quiet to loud on the y, but didn’t really offer much as a jumping-off point for where they’d could go next.
As it turned out, the “where” would be Chicago, to work with John McEntire of Tortoise, rather than Nashville and Roger Moutenot, who had been behind the boards for every one of their records since 1993’s Painful – that’s their last seven releases. And while it’s not necessarily clear that a change in producer would have that drastic an effect on a band that’s as assured in what they do and how they do it as Yo La Tengo, if they were looking to come away with something different, it’s reasonable to say that the fruits of those sessions – Fade, out tomorrow – accomplished that.
The songs still follow the familiar Yo La Tengo templates, but the presentation feels compressed. Not in the technical studio sense of being less dynamic, but it’s not hard to imagine bookend tracks “Ohm” and “Before We Run” stretching past the 10-minute mark on other records instead of being constrained to their relatively concise six-and-change running times here. And those are the longest tracks on the album – almost everything else clocks in at under five minutes. Not to get too hung up on matters of time – what’s more remarkable than the fact that the whole thing could be dubbed onto a single side of a 90-minute cassette is that it seems to have been done without compromising any of the band’s trademark atmospheric indulgences or rushing their gentler, languid tempos.
On the quiet side, “Two Trains” exists in a sumptuous, phase-shifted dream-state, and “I’ll Be Around” hums along, carried by whirring organs and Ira Kaplan’s fingerpicked guitarwork, yet maintain enough presence to avoid becoming pretty aural wallpaper, and at the other end of the spectrum, “Well You Better” and “Paddle Forward” are welcome additions to the crunchy pop nugget section of their songbook. Fade may not necessarily break any new ground for the band – that may well be mathematically impossible for them at this point – but it does offer a fresh perspective on much of what they do best.
And if you missed the post addendum last week, Low have announced a local date in support of their new record The Invisible Way. The album is out March 19 but they’ll be here a few days earlier, on March 16, at The Great Hall. Tickets for that are $18.50 and on sale now.
Chelsea Light Moving – aka Thurston Moore’s new post-Sonic Youth band – will be at Lee’s Palace on March 31 in support of their self-titled debut, out March 5. Tickets are $19.50, details on the release available at Matablog and there’s quite a bit of the new record available to preview; spoilers – it sounds like Thurston Moore.
Los Angeles electro-pop outfit Fol Chen will be at The Drake Underground on April 7 in support of their new album The False Alarms, due out March 19.
Good news for those anticipating/dreading the auction later this week for the new Replacements benefit EP, Songs For Slim; while that limited edition of 250 will still be auctioned off to raise money for former ‘Mats guitarist Slim Dunlap’s medical bills, a regular edition of the recordings will be made available for sale to the general public. Details on that at Consequence Of Sound.
Hit up Consequence Of Sound to hear a stream of a track from the new Guided By Voices EP Down By The Racetrack, due out January 22. Their next full-length English Little League will follow on April 30.
Stream: Guided By Voices – “Copy Zero”
The Flaming Lips have announced plans to release their 1997 mind-fuck opus Zaireeka as a vinyl reissue for Record Store Day this year, which is to say April 20. Which sounds great but when you factor in the fact that you’d not only need four turntables instead of the original issue’s quad-CD player setup, but you’d need to swap sides and records for each disc… yeah. No.
Video: Memory Tapes – “Sheila”