I'm going to level with you. I have an extremely short attention span. Longer than a fly's, definitely, but not nearly long enough to appreciate the type of "jamming" that many music enthusiasts like to rave about. So, I have to hand it to Hoboken, N.J.'s Yo La Tengo. It takes guts to bookend an album with two songs that are each more than 10 minutes.
It takes talent to make those two songs interesting for that length of time.
But clearly, Yo La Tengo is not afraid to beat your ass as the band has entitled its new album I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass.
The album's opener, "Pass the Hatchet, I Think I'm Goodkind" starts off with an impressive amount of feedback and continues in the same vein for several minutes before Ira Kaplan begins to sing.
Somehow, this combination of a noisily meandering guitar and steady rhythm section manages to be interesting for almost 11 minutes, even though the lyrics are mostly unintelligible (something about either microphones or microscopes, I think). This song segues nicely into "Beanbag Chair," a gently upbeat song that shuffles along on top of a chugging piano accompaniment.
Though this album doesn't flow languidly from one song to the next, like 2000's And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out, it is definitely akin to 1997's I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One with its more eclectic pacing.
Despite the fact that Yo La Tengo has played together since the early '90s, this album sounds just as fresh, if not more so, than classics like I Can Hear the Heart.
Another noticeable change is the variety of instruments employed on this album. The brass on "Beanbag Chair" and "Black Flowers" and the beautiful string section on "I Feel Like Going Home" are wonderful touches not quite like anything present on any other Yo La Tengo albums.
Many of the songs on I Am Not Afraid do a great job of evoking a certain mood or time. It has its fair share of classic Yo La Tengo noise-rock and mellow droning, but songs like "I Feel Like Going Home," with its aforementioned wistful string arrangements and "The Room Got Heavy" with its tribal drumbeats sound exactly like their titles would suggest.
As far as invoking a certain time, "The Room Got Heavy" sounds like a '60s-era "Happening" with the combination of the droning guitar and vocals and The Doors-esque freak-out at the end. "Watch out for Me Ronnie" is as close Yo La Tengo will ever get to playing rockabilly.
The first single, "Mr. Tough," is unlike any Yo La Tengo song I have heard before, though it still sounds like a Yo La Tengo song even with a Peanuts-esque piano and a killer horn section. That is probably the best compliment I can give it — you know, at first listen, that it's Yo La Tengo, but it's unlike any Yo La Tengo you've heard.
Overall, I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass finds a veteran indie band continuing to deliver playful and focused songs that will definitely hold your attention span.
Artist: Yo La Tengo
Album: I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass
Record Label: Matador Records
Release Date: Sept. 12
Most Listenworthy Track: 'Mr. Tough'
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 out of 5Ms