I Am Not Afraid of You & I Will Beat Your Ass
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I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass
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MP3 Music, September 12, 2006
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This bold, eclectic, 80-minute album is the pinnacle of the band's twenty-year career. From eleven-minute guitar jams to gorgeous ballads to winsome horn-drenched pop songs, this album is all over the map, in a very good way. Features the talents of longtime Nashville producer Roger Moutenot, violinist Dave Mansfield of Dylan's Rolling Thunder Review, and the jacket artistry of Gary Panter (Raw, Jimbo).
It's no surprise that a group named after something said during a baseball game would title an album after something said during a basketball match. It is a bit of a surprise that this band remains so incredibly good, and capable of surprising even longtime listeners. This one's so diverse and such a mixture of different styles, it's reminiscent of the group's all-request on-air shows they play annually to support New Jersey-based radio station WFMU. Book-ended by two long, droney tunes, you've got garage-rock rave-ups, country-pop, horn-driven R&B, little gorgeous atmospheric songs, some brilliant falsetto singing, and... this list could go on and on. Who else would think to pair conga-style percussion to a Suicide-esque synth drone? Or even to work with longtime Dylan collaborator and strings arranger and violinist David Mansfield and have genius illustrator Gary Panter do the artwork at the same time? It's the little things that matter, especially when you mastered the big ones twenty-plus years ago. --Mike McGonigal
Top customer reviews
What's been missing from the band's records has been a good dose of noise and distortion, and this record starts right up with a nearly eleven minute excursion into that territory-- opener "Pass the Hatchet, I Think I'm Goodkind" blazes in with a fierce beat, an aggressive bass and a wave of feedback-driven lead guitar. That guitarist Ira Kaplan doesn't deliver his finest vocal (it sounds a bit forced to me) is a bit besides the point, the piece is a reminder that this is a band that knows how to cut loose.
Mind you, the opener is the exception rather than the rule, but it's really quite stunning what that little bit of energy can provide in framing the record. It also helps that the songwriting, arranging and production are all really top notch on the record, whether it's the bouncy pop songs that so dominate the album (the simply fantastic "Beanbag Chair", single "Mr. Tough"), Pet Sounds inspired instrumental "Daphnia", painful ballad "Black Flowers" (awash in deep brass and strings) or '60s style rocker "I Should Have Known Better". And while there's a couple duds here and there ("The Race is On Again", somewhat unintelligible "Watch Out For Me Ronnie"), for a nearly 80 minute album, this one's remarkably consistently good.
The record's not quite the masterpiece of I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One, but it's the best thing they've done in a while. Recommended.
I liken Yo La Tengo to a more subdued, much less overtly angry version of Sonic Youth; the two groups in fact hail from the same neck of the woods in New Jersey. The group's name translates as the baseball phrase, "I've got it!". Well, here they've hit on perhaps their most deliciously diverse album since 1997's I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One, but I won't go as far as saying it supersedes that album as the group's most successfully realized -- not all the tunes here strike the perfect chord in this listener. To me, however, this is the kind of stuff that exemplifies what "indie" stands for and what makes it attractive for those who had been dissuaded from embracing its uniqueness and surrendering to its spells. The "repeat" is on, and yes, I'm a fan. They may not be afraid, but I refuse to believe they'd want to "beat my a--".