Album review: Yo La Tengo

Yo La Tengo - There's A Riot Going On (Matador)

Yo La Tengo. Photo:- Godlis

Yo La Tengo. Photo:- Godlis

IN 1971, Sly & The Family Stone released There's A Riot Goin' On, a dark, agitated, brooding, washed-out sounding album of suppressed African-American anger at the state of the USA.

That album is a masterpiece, not just of soul and funk, but of any genre which comes under the label 'popular music'. Therefore it is quite something for Yo La Tengo to give their new album the same title as such an iconic work. Then again, The Replacements did the same with Let It Be and got away with it.

The title pinching is deliberate. This album looks at the America of 2018 and is horrified by what it sees, but the response is quintessential Yo La Tengo. The trio have long specialised in a uniquely mid-tempo, no need to break a sweat, super-relaxed, indie-rock, and offer this approach to contemporary political and environmental turmoil, not as escape or denial (the title will not allow it ), but as respite, a calm, and a refuge.

'Shades Of Blue' (another borrowed title ), about painted walls and missing a loved one, emerges as a highlight with its gentle, loping rhythms, and the warmth of Georgia Hubley's understated vocals; similarly impressive is the atmospheric 'She May She Might', with indie-acoustic forms and psychedelica merging over a motorik beat, through which Ira Kaplan's vocals drift and muse. The laid-back, atmospheric, aspects of YLT's sound are pushed into full blown ambient soundscapes ('You Are Here', 'Shortwave' ) - further emphasising the album's theme.



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