Yo La Tengo – Fade
Fade by Yo La Tengo is one of about half a dozen albums released in the first weeks of the new year which are pretty certain to be in my top ten come year’s end (see also: Pictish Trail, Rick Redbeard, Lady Lazarus, Hookworms and Eels). It’s been a fertile six weeks or so.
When I’ve brought this up in the pub others have disagreed with me, but I honestly didn’t think Yo La Tengo’s two previous albums, Popular Songs and the brilliantly-titled I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass, were all that special. They weren’t bad, by any means, but they didn’t grab me all that much.
It was a bit like building a fire. Whilst those albums, like this one, were composed of classic Yo La Tengo building material, this one crackles gleefully, whereas the previous two seemed like that fire you spend all night trying to fan into life without ever generated a particularly satisfying blaze.
I’m not sure what it is about Fade that I think is better. When you’re a long time fan I guess some albums just chime better with you than others, and perhaps sometimes the reasons are more personal than they are related to the quality of the record itself. For some reason there’s a liveliness and a sense of identity to this album – sitting somewhere between the blissed out Summer Sun and And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out one one hand and the hypnotic thrum of Painful on the other – where the preceding two records seemed more like slightly misfiring recreations of the general Yo La Tengo sound.
Opener Ohm has a wonderfully self-possessed pace to it, whereas tunes like the gorgeous I’ll Be Around embody that laid back confident quality at which the band are so very good. In fact I am not sure anyone can out there can do intimacy or tenderness quite as affectingly as Yo La Tengo.
But there’s good variation on this album, and the gentleness of I’ll Be Around is offset by a couple of orchestral swingers like Is That Enough and closer Before We Run, as well as the lively clip of early songs Well You Better and Paddle Forward. In fact it just feels complete.
And perhaps that is what I am driving at when I say that there is a sense of identity to this album. The last couple have perhaps felt a bit like part of some overall wash of Yo La Tengoeyness which spans the last thirty-odd years of music, whereas this one feels like an album which is very much its own beast and which has a particular reason for existing and, after forty-five minutes, when it is over, it stops.