Yo La Tengo – There’s A Riot Going On

The fact that Yo La Tengo have existed for over thirty years, with a consistently strong but still relatively underground appeal, could be one of the reasons behind the title of their fifteenth  album. Not that Yo La Tengo are in anyway riotous, well at least not in an obvious way. Theirs is a slower, hypnotic riot, rather than a sheer onslaught.

Kicking off with the gentle meandering rhythms and undulating keyboard sounds of ‘You Are Here’, Yo La Tengo’s ability to create a mesmerising yet melodic world remains just as strong after all these years. Then it’s straight into ‘Shades Of Blue’, with drummer Georgia Hubley’s gentle vocals melting into a backing of pianos, guitars and even sleigh bells. It’s like the most delicate Motown soul song you ever heard, with long drawn out notes whilst an undercurrent of pounding drums, Velvet Underground style, keeps a constant rhythm.

‘She May, She Might’ has more graceful guitar sounds overlaying those subtle rhythms with melodies weaving in and out, whilst guitarist Ira Kaplan’s relaxing vocals add another level to the harmonic mountain, creating a hazy, kaleidoscope of sounds. ‘For You Too’ shows a slightly louder side to YLT, although that’s still never a really a trouble-the-neighbours kinds of loud in the scheme of things, more a gentle fuzz tone guitar here and faster drumbeats there, wrapping themselves around more hushed vocal sounds.

They branch out into more electronic drum beats and looped sounds to build their interlaced musical framework of gentility on ‘Ashes’, whereas ‘Dream, Dream, Away’ finds those gentle guitars giving way to more eerie keyboard sounds, before the reassuring vocals of Ira and Georgia return. If it was meant as a lullaby, it has the desired effect, not that it’s uninteresting in any way, but just that it’s so relaxing and dreamy, you’re in danger of drifting off!

‘Shortwave’ is another soothing, atmospheric piece with a low gentle hum of pulsating synth drones, shimmering guitar notes, and vocal effects fading in and out, as if being beamed in from another planet, in contrast to ‘Esportes Casual’ with its quirky synth riffs not a million miles away from the easy listening sounds of the 1960s which could easily soundtrack an Italian film of that era, with its instrumental prowess.

Their previous albums have managed to create a hypnotic atmosphere with slightly louder guitars and effects, and the shift to quieter tones has been a gradual one. The irony of calling your album ‘There’s A Riot Going On’ when it’s full of the most delicate and gentle sounds makes me love them even more. It’s defiantly peaceful and delicate, as if rebelling against the decibels of other albums, and is yet another great release from the New Jersey trio. Long may the quiet riot continue.

Release Date 16/03/2018 (Matador Records)

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From the early days of creating handmade zines, in a DIY paper and glue style, interviewing bands around town, then pestering Piccadilly Records to sell them, to writing for various independent mags such as Chimp and Ablaze, writing about the music I love is still a great passion. After testing the music industry waters in London with stints at various labels, being back in my hometown again, writing about this city’s vibrant music scene is as exciting as ever. All time favourite bands include Sonic Youth, Nick Cave, Patti Smith although anything from electro to folk via blues and pysch rock will also do nicely too. A great album, is simply a great album, regardless of whatever musical cage you put it in.