Music Reviews
I'm Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass

Yo La Tengo I'm Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass

(Matador) Buy it from Insound Rating - 9/10

Eclectic. Sure it's a hackneyed word, but I'm sorry, there's just no other way to describe the latest Yo La Tengo, which for shits and giggles I will from now on refer to simply as Ass. This Ass is nothing new for the Hobokenites (ers?) as it recalls quite vividly their indie classic from 1997, I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One, or simply Heart. So take your pick, your Heart or your Ass, what's it gonna be? Fortunately, since eclecticism is de rigeur for Yo La, you get sentiment aimed directly at your heart as well as rockers with which to shake your ass.

The shape-shifting is apparent from the word go as an intense 10 minute guitar extravaganza leads into the bounciest three minutes your likely to hear from now on since Paul McCartney will probably devote his future musical output to death metal after Heather gets through with him. This band is harder to pin down than a pudgy wrestler hopped up on PCP and smothered with butter. The only thing you can generally count on is subdued vocals. Even when the band is rocking out on a number like "Watch Out for Me Ronnie", the singer is buried under a haze of distortion, compression and echo. On the quieter songs you can usually expect the lyrics to be delivered in a near whisper. Granted, the tone of the album never approaches the sleepy subtlety of 2000's And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out, but the overall feel is still classic Tengo; heartfelt but distant.

Ironically, Ass doesn't rock as consistently as Heart did, instead focusing on a 60s style, swinging sophisticate vibe. You can hear the swirling lava lamps in the 12 string (Rickenbacker?) jangle on "The Race is on Again" and "Song for Mahila". You will want to reach for your Nehru jackets and turtle necks as you try to shag birds in your groovy bachelor pad to the strains of "Hey Mr. Tough" and "Sometimes I Don't Get You". But even with the obvious emphasis on late 60's adult-oriented songwriting, there is still plenty here for everybody, from the Sigur Ros on steroids of "The Story of Yo La Tengo, to the punk thrash of "I Should Have Known Better", to the Can meets World Music drone of "The Room Got Heavy". Best of all is the lovely "Black Flowers" which is pure Yo La Tengo, quietly hypnotic and introspective, and the best song The Earlies never wrote.

I'm going to go way out on a limb and say that with its broader range, its rich melodicism and its cultivated gentleness, Ass might have a leg up on Heart. It's a tough call, but either way you will want to own this record as it stands as some of the best work from one of the most unique bands of the past decade.