Yo La Tengo - Fade

by Steve Reynolds Rating:8 Release Date:2013-01-18

No doubt about it, Yo La Tengo are a musical institution. They have been around the music business for nigh-on 30 years now. Not a band to be touted in reference to musical fashion scenes (they have seen many of those of in their tenure), they quietly go about their business and they don't tread into unfamiliar territory on this, their 13th album. Fade. And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out was my first introduction to the band in 2000, and Fade is heavily redolent of those shuffling, ethereal indie leanings. If anything, the years have mellowed the band even further, demonstrated by drawn-out opener 'Ohm'.

Having been drawn into American college indie in its infancy, they were never as nihilistic or musically vexed as their peers (Dinosaur Jr, Sonic Youth, Husker Du), instead choosing to focus less on waves of discordant guitar and feedback and more on classic song-craft in its most simplistic form while not being afraid to move away from the standard guitar/drums/bass template. This is no better represented than on the searing 'is That Enough?', on which Ira Kaplan murmurs plaintively while a maelstrom of violin strings coarse through the main arteries of the song.

A large volume of Yo La Tengo songs have a tendency to run on and on, but the middle part of Fade has two sub-three-minute songs. The twee 'Well You Better' wouldn't be out of place on a Belle & Sebastian album, while 'Paddle Forward' is its antithesis, with its gritty guitar and hopping drum patterns placated by Ira's melancholy faded vocal. 'Stupid Things' is beautifully arranged and Ira delivering some heart-warming lyrics: "Every little thing just creeps on you… A bumpy road… It takes my breath away". I guess you could call it a ballad or an ode to a lost love, although that's a moot point as he is married to other YLT member Georgia Hubley.

The Hispanic, finger-picked acoustic guitar on the plaintive 'I'll Be Around' is a captivating piece of musical art, with Ira pleading that "He'll be around". Georgia gets a go on the mystical 'Cornelia and Jane', her vocal floating dreamily across the mesh of sounds, really drawing the listener in. YLT are not breaking new ground here. However their bullish approach to continue to write such fragile and beautiful songs means they have no need to change a winning formula. On this evidence, there is no reason why they won't be around for another 30 years.

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