It is fair to say that Yo La Tengo have become true veterans of alternative rock. After releasing their debut Ride The Tiger in 1986, Georgia Hubley, Ira Kaplan and co. rode a wave of critical success that never magnetised to the mainstream. Despite a few low points the band have returned with their first studio LP for four years, Fade, which continues in their old vein – albeit in a more condensed manner.
Opening with Ohm, there is a striking chord of richness in the joyous reverb of guitars, but it is underlined by a foreboding melancholy when “nothing ever stays the same”. This is a band trying to push forward, an attribute that continues on Paddle Forward.
But by tasting new things Yo La Tengo do not avoid their own ethic, with layered instrumentation providing a veneer of varying emotions. Kaplan and Hubley’s soothing voices still break through the mechanics, with penetrating and unavoidably deft lyricism on tracks like Cornelia and Jane and The Point of It.
The album lacks the 10-minute long instrumental jams that characterised earlier works, yet it still plays around creatively. Cornelia and Jane’s rural feel is a lovely melodious gem, Hubley’s voice holding you through the song’s peaceful chaos. This seems to characterise most of the album – a cradling journey that is inoffensive and accessible. Songs such as Well You Better could easily soundtrack a Wes Anderson film, its approachability also suggesting something deeper.
Fade is very much to the point, but not in a straight way. It combines a comfortable folky feel with trademark reverb guitars and layers that have come to define Yo La Tengo. Its inventiveness is contained, but this adds to its accessibility, marring it a different but overall strong effort from one of America’s most enduring bands.