Tuesday, October 31, 2006

I am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass

For some time, there has been stiff competition for the title of Best Band Name in the World. ...and You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead, Super Furry Animals, Future Kings of Spain, G. Love & Special Sauce, Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band and many others fought tooth and nail. But as far as best album title goes, Yo La Tengo have swept all before them, with their new epic 'I am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass'. Buy it, solely for the purpose of telling your friends you own a record called 'I am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass'. Awesome. Which is a fairly apt description of the music contained therein. Yo La Tengo have created another eclectic, sprawling, unpredictable gem. Opening with the cryptically titled 'Pass the Hatchet, I Think I'm Goodkind'. Lord knows what that means, and the song itself is similarly obtuse, a bouncy bassline jumping in and out behind a distorted, grinding guitar piece, no trend whatsoever is set, as they move seamlessly into 'Beanbag Chair', 'I Feel Like Going Home' and 'Mr Tough', alternating between addictive, melody-driven pop and sweeping, dramatic and introspective string-laden ballad.
Convention and restraint are utterly ignored across the record, with opening and closing tracks exceeding ten minutes, and no musical landscape is left unmined, no sonic field unharvested. Lyrics are convoluted, instruments appear and vanish with (occasionally) frustrating regularity, but throughout, a senseof excitement and challenge permeates.
There may be better records this year (not a great many, mind you), but few, if any, will prove as challenging, or as rewarding.

4 1/2 stars



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