Yo La Tengo's new album, I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass, is a sprawling cornucopia of sounds that emulates pure, clean, classic rock 'n' roll, especially that of the 1960s and 1970s, reinvented in a way that only Yo La Tengo could.
This completely new sound for the band is especially apparent on "The Room Got Heavy" and "I Should Have Known Better." Bongo drums pulse, organs belt out catchy minor riffs, the guitar and bass building on the melodies to crescendo into rock bliss.
The band had ample practice for going back to these sounds from all their time spent improvising songs requested by listeners for WFMU radio, a New Jersey independent station. The band's collective knowledge of rock music is an impressive in-depth encyclopedia, one that they regularly consult.
At times I Am Not Afraid of You.... recalls earlier albums. "The Race is On" could have nuzzled right into I Can Feel the Heart Beating As One, with its fuzzy reverb and guitar and drums driven and mellow duet between Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley. "Daphnia" recalls the hypnotic ambient musings of And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out.
Yo La Tengo does a little of everything they've ever done and then add to it for this album. At nearly 80 minutes and sandwiched between two epics that span for over ten minutes, I Am Not Afraid of You... cannot possibly disappoint.
A bit schizophrenic, it never coheres they way some of the bands previous albums have. But this album isn't about cohesion, it's about good old rock 'n' roll interpreted with the passion and ingenuity from the veterans of independent music. For anyone uninitiated to the distinct sounds of Yo La Tengo, I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass is the perfect introduction. • Katy Henriksen