Boomkat Product Review:
There was an old saying you used to hear in music circles - hardly anyone bought The Velvet Underground's albums back in the day, but those that did started a band. I can believe it too - their influence has seeped into the veins of the alternative indie scene like no other band I can bring to mind.
If you're listening to leftfield rock music chances are the band have either been influenced by Lou Reed's gang of slackers or they've taken their cues from a band who were. Yo La Tengo have been around for quite some time now with their first material surfacing way back in 1985, so I'm guessing they were first generation Velvets fans, but the influence still pulses through their music. It's not like the band even sound so much like the Velvet Underground anymore, but their attitude, their juxtaposition of lite-summer-pop with abstract noise rock (the intro track is a 10 minute SY-lite psychedelic piece...) and their uncompromisingly anti-commercial style is where comparisons become clear. All this would be meaningless though if they weren't still making quality music, and I'm happy to say that 'I am not Afraid...' sees the band on blistering form - quite an achievement after over 20 years of activity.
After the extended rock explosion of 'Pass the Hatchet, I Think I'm Goodkind' we're onto potential single 'Beanbag Chair' which manages to be as poppy as the Beatles while retaining that classic Yo La Tengo charm which has brought them so many hardcore fans worldwide. It's a triumphant moment and sets the tone for the rest of the record, in fact the Beatles are a good reference point - they're another band who managed somehow to inject experimental influences into good ole summer pop music. Ending as it began, we are treated to yet another incredible extended (12 minutes this time) avant rock jam, knowingly entitled 'The Story of Yo La Tengo' and in a way it's exactly that. This is a band who over time have perfected their craft rather than merely repeating themselves, they have continued to challenge each other and their fans and they seem to continue enjoying the music they create - a feature rare in so many bands. To put it quite bluntly, if you're looking for a truly varied indie-rock-pop album, then you're unlikely to find one more varied or charming then this in 2006.