As if its title weren't a dead giveaway, this is not your garden-variety Yo La Tengo album. Actually, this is the Yo La Tengo album that happens once every eight or so years. In 1997, the Hoboken-based band released I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One, a career watershed and the close of a four-album run that placed the band in the upper echelon of indie rock.
I Am Not Afraid of You ... sounds nothing like I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One, but both are successfully ambitious double albums that are more about the music that the band collectively loves -- and loves to put the Yo La Tengo stamp on -- than sounding like what the world expects them to sound like (i.e., their previous three albums).
The opening "Pass the Hatchet, I Think I'm Goodkind" gives Ira Kaplan an 11-minute reason to go bonkers on the guitar, something he is very good at but hasn't exercised in years (at least on record). The light pop of "Black Flowers" blatantly lifts from the White Stripes' "We're Going To Be Friends," and "Mr. Tough" is more than likely a product of bassist James McNew's Prince fixation. Sure, I Am Not Afraid of You ... has boring moments; it is, after all, 77 minutes long. The piano ballad "I Feel Like Going Home" leaves no positive or negative aftertaste, and the seven-plus minutes of "Daphnia" are all minimal ambience that goes nowhere. This is excusable when balanced by a track such as "The Room Got Heavy," which sounds like nothing the band has ever attempted: a menacing tropical mood piece with more than a passing resemblance to the Brit-pop electro-funk of the late '80s.
I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass lifts Yo La Tengo from the quagmire of existing only as a critic's band or the favorites of NPR programmers, putting the band's formidable chops on full display once again. -- Andrew Earles