Friday, February 27, 2015

Album Review: Yo La Tengo - May I Sing With Me



Yo La Tengo released their fifth album, May I Sing With Me in 1992.  Opening track Detouring Americans With Guns starts out as a gentle strum before transforming into a grunted-up Velvet Underground style strum, with Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley resplendent on bored, alienated vocals.  Upside-Down is like Lou Reed fronting the Velvet Underground, roaring along, hitting the mark perfectly in two and a half minutes.  It's a great opening salvo, but after this all doesn't quite go to plan.  Mushroom Cloud of Hiss is the first of TWO nine minute tracks, and it proves to be an abrasive slog, like VU's I Heard Her Call My Name stretched out.

Swing For Life is one of a couple of downtempo, brooding tracks in the vein Sonic Youth's less intense material (a good thing).  Hubley delivers a perfectly pitched vocal on a reasonably sparse track, which allows Kaplan to spring forth with some fine guitar licks.  Five-Cornered Drone uses a similar guitar tone to great effect, this time with Kaplan taking vocal duties, while Some Kinda Fatigue is almost like Echo and the Bunnymen meets Husker Du!

The downcast, desolate Always Something is one of the the strongest tracks, helped by a fine backing vocal from bassist James McNew.  After this the album takes a turn, not necessarily for the better.  The barrelling 86-second Blowout is exactly that, and Out The Window huffs puffs without really hitting home, despite Hubley's fine drumming.  Sleeping Pills is nine minutes of experimental, keyboard drones before the album finishes with the understated, yet charming Satellite.

So an uneven, hit and miss album, which I think is the key to its charm.