Yo La Tengo – I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 6)

Yo La Tengo can never be accused of not having a sense of humor. Whether the reprinted fan letter on Painful, the fake releases advertised on I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One, or the jokey song and album titles, Yo La Tengo never comes across like they are taking things too seriously. Here, the album title comes from a dispute between two New York Knicks, and the last song mocks the inability of people to get the band’s name correct.

What I Think of This Album

I tend to think of this as I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One, Part Two. It’s another eclectic collection of songs, jumping from style to style (but somehow always sounding like Yo La Tengo; Roger Moutenot mans the boards once more), and while it would be easy to say that almost no album by anyone is as good as Heart, the truth is that this album suffers in the inevitable comparison. The band sounds more confident than on Heart, but that assuredness seems to have come at the cost of the sense of wonder and fun that permeated that landmark work. This is another Yo La Tengo album that works best for fans, though I could be convinced otherwise.

On the positive side of the ledger, there is the light and yearning piano-based ’60s pop of “Beanbag Chair” and surprising soul number “Mr. Touch, replete with horns and a shocking falsetto from Ira Kaplan (who, it has to be said, overall gives probably his best vocal performance throughout this album). Also noteworthy is a strings and euphonium pairing, augmented by a drum machine, that turns “Black Flowers” into the song latter-day Flaming Lips were always trying to write but couldn’t.

The band goes back to the sounds of Painful on the drones-and-bongos-and-Farfisa (seriously?) “The Room Got Heavy” and the “Eight Miles High”-isms of “The Race Is On Again.” Scottish pop á la Belle and Sebastian is the name of the game on the airy and pleasant “The Weakest Part.” 

Less successful are songs like the meandering “I Feel Like Going Home,” with a subdued vocal from drummer Georgia Hubley; the jazzy “Sometimes I Don’t Get You;” and lengthy instrumental “Daphnia,” which stops the album dead in its tracks. “I Should Have Known Better” is 85% of a good song, but the rest never arrives, and despite all its energy, “Watch Out for Me Ronnie” doesn’t even get that far.

Finally, the album is bookended by a pair of Kaplan guitar showcases, each over ten minutes long; the first is fairly mundane, but finale “The Story of Yo La Tango” (that is not a typo) is galactic.

The Best Thing About This Album

“The Story of Yo La Tango” is one of their best six-string jams.

Release Date

September, 2006

The Cover Art

Another miss. This is an abstract painting that does nothing for me. I do like the shadow effect on the band name.

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