Yo La Tengo: There’s a Riot Going On review – improvised meditations


Sly and the Family Stone’s 1971 album of the same name was a full-on record, reacting to extraordinary times. Yo La Tengo’s 15th-odd offering sounds nothing like its namesake. It too is a reaction to tense times, but a much calmer one.

Like virtually every other Yo La Tengo album, Riot finds the veteran trio striving to make the guitar band sound like the high point of human civilisation, rather than a vehicle for rebelliousness. It is, however, a departure for them. Largely improvised, often meditative, these 15 tracks find Georgia Hubley often taking the lead on guitar, offering up ambient passages – like Dream Dream Away, a strummed interlude of off-hand beauty – and, on Esportes Casual, a little loungey bossanova that, though sweet, sits ill with the rest of this immersive listen.

Of the songs you can grab with two hands, Ira Kaplan’s out front on the buzzing For You Too, providing a sterling example of evolved masculinity in the wake of #MeToo. By contrast, Hubley leads on Shades of Blue, as great a song as the Jesus and Mary Chain never wrote, and Polynesia #1, a lovely reverie that doubles as a paean to the South Seas.

Listen to For You Too by Yo La Tengo.


Kitty Empire

The GuardianTramp

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