YO LA TENGO Popular Songs
Most of us fans have a silly tendency to look at our favorite musicians as being the smartest people in the world. Within their lyrics
we know we’ll find the answers to everything, if we just look hard enough. In truth, most musicians are no smarter than any of
us—often much less so. You can find many books on this subject.
Georgia, Ira and James of Yo La Tengo are exceptions to this rule, and Popular Songs, their 16th album (ask your representative
for discographical clarification) is the proof. Because when this new and dramatically unimproved world puts the hard questions to
Yo La Tengo, they go Socratic as hell, swaggeringly, reassuringly, honestly telling us that all they know is they know nothing.
They do not know why that sunbeam comes through the window when you are determined to sulk; they do not know just how are
we going to make it, anyway?
Still, Yo La Tengo are nothing if not attentive: They do know that, if you are hearing this record and reading these words
(preferably both), you are still here, and they are too, and so—Popular Songs, to resanctify us and all our foibles and goodnesses.
They might’ve called it Manual for the People, or perhaps even Carry On, Oy! But it’s good they didn’t.
Popular Songs demonstrates that everything said about Yo La Tengo in the past is still true, only more so. Now, almost any song
can sound like Yo La Tengo, provided it’s Yo La Tengo playing it:
The strings-and-keyboards orchestrations of the opener, “Here to Fall,” on which Ira offers the new best articulation of what it
means to love; the Clean-feeling pop of “Avalon or Someone Very Similar,” unburdened by gravity or friction; Georgia’s aching
“By Two’s,” a dream-machine in motion, a warm shiver for your cold, still nights. And that’s just the first three tunes!
What of the garagey rave-up of “Nothing to Hide”, the funky but unfunklike “Periodically Double or Triple”, and the classicpop
duet, “If It’s True”? Which isn’t to even mention the gently ambling “I’m On My Way”, containing some of the album’s
smartest, simplest lyrics, which rolls into a duo of romantic wedding-ready tunes alternately fronted by Georgia (“When It’s
Dark”) and Ira (“All Your Secrets”).
Then fans of Yo La Tengo’s well-established habit of stretching out will be enthralled by the simmering, sultry “More Stars
Than There Are in Heaven” and the hypnotic ebbing flow of “The Fireside”, these final two epics totalling 20+ minutes of the
most beautiful, obsessive Yo La Tengo music ever put to tape. (The format-savvy may even resolve themselves with the coda di
tutti frutti, “And The Glitter Is Gone”.)
This annum ridiculus isn’t even half over and Yo La Tengo have: Placed a song on the widely liked Dark Was the Night benefit
compilation; released that Condo Fucks record of covers; composed the score to the film Adventureland; taken their “Freewheeling
Yo La Tengo” tour to select lucky European locations; performed their umpteenth request-any-song three-hour set for WFMU’s
annual marathon; compiled one of Merge Records’ anniversary CDs (Georgia); played on the forthcoming A-Bones album (Ira);
brought Dump back to the stage (James).
Down to their fingernails, Yo La Tengo understand that the dichotomy has never been love & hate—this life is about love & fear.
And fear makes you run and hide, sit on your ass, do nothing but be consumed by it. To restate the obvious, Yo La Tengo are not
afraid. They walk bravely forward, into the unknown, hand in hand. And 16 albums in, they may just be hitting their stride.
Yo La Tengo are Georgia Hubley, Ira Kaplan, and James McNew.
Discography at: http://www.sunsquashed.com/Discog/