Yo La Tengo stuns again with understatement, hooks

Yo La Tengo

Electr-O-Pura

Matador Records

Ahh ... that Yo La Tengo sound. You either love it, or you haven't heard it. That dual guitar interplay ─ one guitar strumming its off-kilter chord progressions, the other tying it up in a web of reverb, delay, distortion and feedback ─ laced gently over those driving brittle drums. Those soft vocals ...

The band returns with its follow-up to 1993's stunning Painful LP and somehow manages to match the quality and develop their sound a little further. Electr-O-Pura wraps the listener up in its meshes of lush sound for 14 songs, never letting up from a steady barrage of dynamics and catchy hooks.

The album kicks off with the best song My Bloody Valentine never wrote, the dreamy "Decora". Unlike MBV, however, Yo La Tengo never loses sight of their strong pop hookery, locking in on a groove and riding it out to its finish. The first three minutes of "Flying Lesson (Hot Chicken #1)" are like some sort of painful foreplay ─the driving beat propelling the standard indie rock song until it explodes in a 4-minute climax of buzzing Yo La Tengo fever.

The sonic attacks are tempered with a more subdued side to the band. The understated wonder of "The Hour Grows Late", with nothing more than acoustic guitar, softer drumming and droning organ (which makes a more pronounced presence on the album overall) for instrumentation, is only topped by the chillingly beautiful "Paul is Dead" and its eerie backing vocals by Georgia Hubley.

As might be expected, however, the band saves its best for last, in this case the mind blowing 9-minute masterpiece "Blue Line Swinger." "Swinger" starts off like some sort of strange orchestra tune-up, but slowly tightens up into the album's most trance-inducing jam. After being locked into such an engrossing track for so long, the listener feels lost when the song ─and consequently, the album ─is finished, leaving him no other option but to start all over again. Easily one of the year's finest releases. (Noah Lopez)

Cause For Alarm

Victory Records

Many of the original early-'80s hardcore bands, such as Minor Threat, Negative Approach and SSD, still retain their power over a decade later.

Alas, Cause for Alarm ─ one of the original New York City hardcore bands ─ can't say the same. This CD is a compilation of the entire recorded output from CFA, all recorded in 1983, and it simply isn't impressive or inspirational anymore.

The music is standard hardcore, the forerunner of later bands like Agnostic Front, the Cro-Mags and Sick of it All, nothing that leaps out and grabs you 12 years later. Likewise, the lyrics are all about being yourself and fighting society's norms, the same as ten million other hardcore bands ─ then and now.

It's good that Victory is putting this out, so that anyone who wants to check it out won't have to pay $80 a pop for the originals. But in terms of musical value, Cause for Alarm doesn't have much to offer anymore. (Greg D'Avis)

Yuppicide

Dead Man Walking

Wreck-Age Records

This Brooklyn outfit has been around for quite some time, but I never bothered to check them out until now. It seems I've been missing out ─ Dead Man Walking is not only enough to make me check out the previous recorded output from Yuppicide, but it's also one of the best albums to come out this year.

The most obvious comparison for Yuppicide is a meaner D.O.A. ─ vocalist Jesse Jones is a dead ringer for a slightly snarlier Joey Shithead. The music is a metal/hardcore crossbreed, better and more complex than most bands that try to pull it off.

Lyrically, Yuppicide is intelligent, if nihilistic ─ Jones paints a depressing picture of life in the Big Apple.

Even the cover songs are good choices ─ Negative Approach's "Tied Down" comes off as almost equal to the original, and a twisted version of R.E.M.'s "The One I Love" is fantastic, capable of standing on its own as a song rather than a joke. Good stuff.

Alas, this is the final release from Yuppicide, who have since called it quits. Nonetheless, it's well worth seeking out for a look at top of the line hardcore. (Greg D'Avis)

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