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Yo La Tengo: And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out


Yo La Tengo

Album: And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out
Label: Matador

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Beyond its monumental reputation, the Velvet Underground actually has two distinct legacies: pretty pop songs and long, noisy drones. Yo La Tengo has been more adept than most bands at fusing these two disparate songwriting approaches. Over the course of nearly a dozen excellent discs (and a couple of masterpieces), the band has excelled at creating beautiful drones and pithy pop ditties—sometimes even pithy pop drone ditties—all fueled by a firm knowledge of classic rock 'n' roll, both obscure and popular. Even so, Yo La Tengo's last two albums have been more varied than usual: Electr-O-Pura and I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One are all over the place, with far more highs than lows between the two. Yo La Tengo's willful diversity has been a great strategy for the band, as each album generally offers something for fans of deafening fuzz and beautiful folk alike. And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out is Yo La Tengo's 10th studio album and, for better and for worse, its tone is immediately more consistent than in either of its predecessors. It's the band's mellowest release since the acoustic campfire-covers classic Fakebook: You can practically hear the crickets chirp and see the stars flicker during these dusk-tinted songs. At 77 minutes, it's also Yo La Tengo's longest, with the subdued mood making for a relatively challenging listen. The band's restraint does wonders on the expansive, haunting opener "Everyday," the gorgeous "Our Way To Fall," "Last Days Of Disco," and "Let's Save Tony Orlando's House"—along with "Cherry Chapstick" (a Sonic Youth homage Yo La Tengo could have written in its sleep), which stands as one of And Then Nothing's sole up-tempo songs. Unfortunately, the album's placid nature can be a bit of a slog instead of the intended pastoral bliss-out, and gems like "Tears Are In Your Eyes" and "Madeline" get lost among fine but unexceptional tracks like "From Black To Blue," "Tired Hippo," and the pretty but uneventful "Night Falls On Hoboken," a 20-minute closer whose sole purpose seems to be to lure the listener to sleep. Yo La Tengo has never made a bad record, and the way the band is revered, a bad record probably wouldn't even be recognized as such. And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out, while not unremarkable, is still a little disappointing, too light on memorable hooks and melodies, too long on leisurely arrangements, and not too great to obliterate feelings that Yo La Tengo usually does better.