Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Album Review: Yo La Tengo - This Stupid World

Yo La Tengo
This Stupid World
**** out of *****

The first full-length in five years from the Hoboken, NJ based trio Yo La Tengo arrives with a sense of energy and immediacy not heard from this group in many efforts. Released on Matador Records and titled This Stupid World, the nine tracks run the gamut of the bands sounds from angular noise rock, to blissful musical wanderings. 

The trio of husband and wife team Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley along with long time bassist James McNew, hunkered down in Hoboken and self recorded/produced the album with just minimal loops and overdubs. C. J. Camerieri adds a few French horn parts, but for the majority of the album it is just the trio delivering their unique brand of indie rock. 

Opening with the excellently elongated "Sinatra Drive Breakdown" the band does it's best driving and clanging on the album, recalling their old peers across the river Sonic Youth with long, hypnotic guitar passages. The drumming leads the way around the echoing layered sounds on "Fallout" with Kaplan's lyrics trying to make sense of the confusion of the last few years while the warbling/eerie "Tonight's Episode" produces a driving bassline and a few noise rock induced headaches. 

Things cool out for the swirling sounds of "Aselestine" as Hubley takes the vocal lead and Camerieri's French horns arrive before the dull "Until It Happens" stalls out. Things improve on the laid back and dreamy relationship song "Apology Letter" before the chaotic noise, screeching guitar work and upbeat bass crash in during the vibrant "Brain Capers". 

These juxtapositions, the dreamy/soft and the loud/hard, are the core of Yo La Tengo. They have always been around, but lately the scales have tipped too much towards the soft and dreamy; the balance they achieve on This Stupid World is strong, never giving in to either polarity for too long.       

That pairing continues to end the album as the title track flashes gnarly guitars, marching/thudding drums and the refrain that "this stupid world/is all we have" while album closer "Miles Away" plays with digital soundscapes and softer passages, floating and closing on more of a whimper than a rebellion.   

Over their forty year career Yo La Tengo has made it work, a testament in and of itself. This Stupid World might not be the best album of their career, but arguments could be made in that direction and they wouldn't be very far fetched.  
Support the band, buy the album, peep some video below:

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