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


4.5
superb

Review

by Zachary Powell USER (64 Reviews)
September 24th, 2006 | 26 replies


Release Date: 2006 | Tracklist

Review Summary: YLT brush up on their ability to make dreamy pop music, also loads up on instruments.

Crowded around the expectations for this bands new release were several possible outcomes and emotions. Could this album be a flop? Continuing in the trend of Summer Sun for certain critics who feel YLT are losing it and are unable to keep putting out consistently sweet albums. Perhaps it will be a step back into form, a long album with long songs that entertain the listener and maybe it would be a highlight of 2006. Whatever approach Ira Kaplan and the rest of the band took in making this album, it worked out in making this 77 1/2 minute enjoyable, listen able, and a step up from Summer Sun.

Even before the first second of the actual music is played, attention is being paid to the title of the album. Being excessively long and also being about ass-beatings makes a statement, this paired with the sweet artwork (Little Pink Lady by Gary Panter) also gives it the ability to standout among other albums in the new release section, as well as the Yo La Tengo collection. When I first picked up this album, the clerk at Wherehouse gave me a look, repeated the title, and asked me what they sounded like. I stated they sound like a space/dream pop band that is good for sitting around and listening to all the way through, but that I didn't know what this album sounded like. At this point neither do you, unless you've already heard it. Lets change that.

The first and last tracks of this piece work as bookends, not only as they kick off the album and finish it with 10+ minute songs, but they also work as portals. "Pass the Hatchet, I Think I'm Goodkind" represents what the band took from creating Summer Sun, and what they picked up before recording this album. The tail end of the album, "The Story of Yo La Tengo" sort of is an inverted mirror of the first song. It has the experience of recording the rest of the album to fall back on, and while basing its sound more in vocals and guitar than bass, just showcases YLT's ability to do more than one thing, how it can sound like one thing in one song, than completely switch it around for the next, giving I Am Not Afraid... replay value and variety.

The bridge and the variety in the Yo La Tengo sound as previously mentioned is displayed perfectly in the first two tracks. Pass the Hatchet is a long heavy track which perfectly opens the album up, but then the flow suddenly shifts. While keeping intact and alive, "Beanbag Chair" brings in more of the superfluous instruments into the mix. The buzzing of the bass and the presence of the trombone thrown in with persistent piano make this a much softer track. Vocals presented as melodically as Ira's sounds kinda like if the guy from They Might Be Giants was less nerdy, and bad.

All ripping on TMBG aside, another highlight from this record is the sequence of the tracks, "Mr. Tough" and "Black Flowers". Mr Tough sounds in the beginning like it could be in the trailer of an indie film (and probably is), coming in with cowbell and piano gives the vibe of a dance song. The number is accompanied by trumpet and saxophone, which take a backseat until the second verse when it changes not in tempo, but overall feel. Saxophone does a good job of coloring the music as it bridges to a piano-lead solo. The chorus line ("Pretend everything could be alright") is repeated until the end; at the end the jump to "Black Flowers" is made. This is a much slower piece, played mainly on piano and bridged with trombone. The mood of this song is much more melancholy than the previous work, however the transition is smooth as silk, and just as enjoyable. The joint feelings these songs make just goes to show the variety of emotions YLT express in their music, as well as their ability to do both so well.

This album is just the latest bit of a great year for Matador records (having previously released Mission of Burma's Obliterati and Belle and Sebastian's The Life Putsuit) and is the uplift the band had been looking for. I Am Not Afraid... is an acclaimed album, and the emotions, transitions, and sound it makes justifies these feelings. They've been in the game for 20 years and this record shows no gray hair.

4.3/5 (rounded to 4.5)

Recommended Tracks:

Black Flowers
Mr Tough
The Room got Heavy



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user ratings (155)
Chart.
3.8
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
Pwntendo
September 24th 2006


70 Comments


I am not afraid of this review and I will beat it's ass.

Zebra
Moderator
September 24th 2006


2647 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This is one of my favorite albums of '06, but that's not saying to much. If they shortened things up a bit this might even be as good as some of their late 90's work but I was still surprised by how many killer moments I Am Not Afraid... has.
Pretty nice work on the review but I think that this is much better than the lackluster "Life Pursuit."


pulseczar
September 24th 2006


2385 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Pretty good review, but you should've including some sort of more thorough description on the band's overall sound for nubs like me (I have "I can feel the heart beating as one" I just need to listen to it.)This Message Edited On 09.24.06

Zmev
September 24th 2006


983 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I Can Feel the Heart Beating as One is more the band by itself. It is another long piece and is atmospheric pop (plus a Beach Boys cover) with more songs but shorter lengths on them.

Sorry about my description of the overall sound. It really is pop with outstanding instrunental sections, and outstanding in the sense that they stick out and that they are well-written.

Dimes Make Dollars
September 25th 2006


241 Comments


their second-best album, behind only Heart. Good review, great music.

ToolBox
September 25th 2006


26 Comments


The first sentence is incredibly awkward.

mr_jackalope
September 26th 2006


25 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Better than Summer Sun, but otherwise one of the weakest albums they've ever put out. No cohesion or focus, some honest to god awful tracks, and several more boring ones. Plus, come on guys, "Mr. Tough"? Is this a joke?

Dimes Make Dollars
September 26th 2006


241 Comments


"Mr. Tough" is cool. Plus, there's plenty of cohesion. If Heart was a sprawling nighttime album, Not Afraid is a sprawling daytime album.

Zebra
Moderator
September 26th 2006


2647 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"Mr.Tough" is the kind of song that either puts me in a really good mood, or just plain out pisses me off given the right occasion. "The Room Got Heavy" is probably my favorite track as of now, I'm really enjoying this a lot more then I originally thought I would.

AlienEater
September 29th 2006


716 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I really need this album.

The Jungler
October 7th 2006


4827 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This is like the best album title ever. I need some Yo La Tengo.

Two-Headed Boy
December 7th 2006


4527 Comments


I am not afraid of this review and I will beat it's ass.


Good one.

FA
December 19th 2006


127 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

One of, if not, the best records of the year. Great review cap'n.

south_of_heaven 11
December 28th 2006


5438 Comments


So while I may not ever listen to this, I must admit: that is one bad-ass album name.

Iai
Emeritus
February 21st 2007


3553 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

So, controversial opinion alert - I think Yo La Tengo are really held back by their singer. As in, it's at the point where I'm struggling to think of more than 3 bands who have such a distance in quality between the music and the vocals. He just bores the hell out of me from the second his mouth opens.

br3ad_man
Emeritus
March 3rd 2007


2125 Comments


A bit late, but...

Which one are you talking about Iai? All three of them sing.

Zmev
March 3rd 2007


983 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

He just bores the hell out of me


Narrows it down to two.

And hes probably refering to Ira.

br3ad_man
Emeritus
March 4th 2007


2125 Comments


Yeah, I figured. I was just being anal.

Bron-Yr-Aur
March 6th 2008


4405 Comments


makes me happy

natey
February 25th 2009


4170 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

"Black Flowers" is one of my favorite songs ever.



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