Yo La Tengo: Fade
Posted by Stuart Holmes
16, January, 2013
‘Sometimes the bad guys come out on top, sometimes the good guys lose’, all three band members sing as Fade begins. But the truth is, the quiet and private lives of Yo La Tengo has seen the New Jersey rockers frequently asserted as the good guys, and it’s hard to see when they haven’t come out on top in a career that’s amassed almost 30 highly successful years as indie rock royalty. The genre-defying trio who have covered nearly every classic rock song in existence go all out on the entirely original Fade. They revisit the charm and intimacy of And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out while keeping true to the accomplished ideas visited in I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One. With that being said, it’s an inevitable gem.
Opening up with the longest track on the album, ‘Ohm’, (which still doesn’t even reach half the length of 2009’s Popular Songs album closer) the trio harmonise in an all out jam, wasting no time with subtleties. The charm and cheer evident in Popular Songs, is in full force again in the heart warming ‘Is The Enough’. The string arrangements sit in perfect synchrony over Ira’s characteristic guitar lead, and somewhat unconventionally, the violins demand precedence. ‘Well You Better’ is graced with the intimate, relationship focused, lyrical content of 2000’s And Then Nothing… but has the swing of the more accessible yet highly explorative 2006 release I Am Not Afraid Of You… The song remains overwhelmingly pleasant, unlike the darker moments of And Then Nothing…, perhaps suggesting a certain ease in the inevitable lingering qualms in the husband-wife pairing.
‘Paddle Forward’ wouldn’t sound out of place on the classic I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One, Ira and Georgia once again signing simultaneously as the band submit to the temptation of turning the noise levels up. Yo La Tengo have always had a keen desire to explore all avenues of their collaborative capabilities, this time around, they acquaint themselves with producer John McEntire. The new challenge becomes a welcome one straight from the off, but perhaps no more so than in ‘Stupid Things’, which delights again with violin arrangements mixed with Ira’s chambered vocals. ‘I’ll Be Around’ is astoundingly gentle, and is about as personable as anything previously explored by the band. Georgia carries lead vocal duties on the heart wrenching ‘Cornelia and Jane’, which calmly waves around not dissimilar to some of the experimental musings of the 2003 full length Summer Sun.
‘Two Trains’ owes percussion credits to the 2000 Yo La Tengo single ‘Saturday’, but proves playing with old ideas can still be refreshing. ‘When you’re screaming in my ear, what’s the point of it?’ Ira asks in the album penultimate were again the barrier between the listener and the normally reserved guitarist-drummer marriage is crossed. And if you are familiar with Yo La Tengo by now, which you ought to be, you’ll have guessed that they finish on an epic. But it isn’t a showcase of Ira’s eccentric 15-minute guitar solo this time, instead it’s a tightly arranged melody filled with a cherished optimism entitled ‘Before We Run’.
Rocking on well into their 50’s (I might be doing bassist James McNew a disservice), Yo La Tengo still know how to please their long established, devoted following. Fade indeed picks on ideas from previous ventures, but still carries an eagerly anticipated freshness that the band seems to provoke with every release. It may be their shortest full-length album since 1990’s Fakebook, but there is still a wealth of pleasure to uncover on the ever-bright Fade.
Cornelia and Jane
Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam, 2013
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