Yo La Tengo - Fade | Album Review | By Volume

I'm here to tell you love ain't some fucking blood on the receiver. Love is speaking in code. It's an inside joke. Love is coming home. The Format - If Work Permits

Yo La Tengo


I celebrated Popular Songs, and toasted to many more; I’ll hold Fade close to me for fear of letting go.

Comments (0)
Author: on April 26, 2013
January 15, 2013

Listening to “Before We Run,” the gorgeous final chapter in Fade, I feel like I’m returning to Yo La Tengo. My history with the band is an unconventional one, I think. I never reveled in I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One, a record I now see as a masterpiece mixtape for indie rock, but I can remember them winning my heart at night – not as it fell, but instead like the characters of “Night Falls on Hoboken”, begging each other a few hours peace in the deep blind of dark. There was nobody to talk to at 2am, so I turned on And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out for a reason to be up. I relied, as usual, on music: I had Georgia and Ira sing to me from their book of contemporary lullabies, each song eliciting not only the night but a presence by my side as it passed. Is anyone too old for this kind of comfort? There’s a romantic history music shares with my nights, so much so that I can remember the chronology of it (“Christmas Time is Here” played out of season, unobtrusive folk music), but Yo La Tengo grew a stronger bond than that. Even as it shook me in my sleep, Inside-Out gained a special trust nothing else could. As soon as the hour grew late, I knew I’d be hearing it.

This of course doesn’t paint the full picture of Yo La Tengo. For one, Inside-Out isn’t so much a lullaby album as it is mythologized as one. It has lullabies scattered around, but I made up the others; the drums quietly shatter the illusion of the album as ambience, like a roommate just walked up the stairs with all the effort in the world but stalled at his door.  It has half-baked Yo La Tengo joy-missives, ones that appear theatrical among the quiet murmur – “Madeline” and “You Can Have it All” are reminiscent of this side of the band, playful like “If It’s True” or “Mr. Tough” but still hushed above all. There are songs with stories too strong to concentrate on past midnight, ones where people see each other across the room or dramatically express nothing to each other. You can sleep to Inside-Out, definitely, but sometimes it’s better suited for a late-night dinner alone or an introspective soul-search.

And of course, there’s always “Cherry Chapstick.”  When I first fell asleep to Inside-Out I barely understood the circumstances that brought me back up. It was raucous, but it maintained the same sonorous quality the album does – melodic and straight-up for a Yo La Tengo freak-out, I eventually put it on a night time mixtape for a friend thinking it could do him some good to have a break-off point.  “Cherry Chapstick” is indicative not only of the type of song they will make, but also the type of song they will make for an album. It is precious of Inside-Out, that one song sticking out so much it’s almost rude of it, but half-way through it becomes its own convincing lullaby, one of steady, unmoved feedback against the dark palette of night time. “Cherry Chapstick” soothes and grooves, fades out of the album as if it’s changed none, like it’s the greatest lullaby of thirteen, and Yo La Tengo, gods of the mixtape, gracefully retire to bed.

Understanding Yo La Tengo in this way is important for Fade. The two classic records, I Can Hear the Heart and Inside-Out, might cohere perfectly in the right setting, and both reward full listens, but they’re mixtapes, songs for every mood you have, as well as one that’s exact. “Autumn Sweater” is picked out so often for a reason, because how do you explain what “Deeper Into Movies” is in the same breath? It’s hard to get this at first, because every fan of Yo La Tengo will have a different idea of which band is, in their own opinion, the most important incarnation. I worried about the fate of Fade as a result of that. How do you keep someone hanging on for more like “Ohm” when all you have is detours? As it begins, they’re harsh, resigned noise rockers; by the end they’ve played three of their most touching acoustic tracks ever and ready themselves for a movie montage ending. It’s been sixteen years since I Can Hear the Heart, but Yo La Tengo retains the spirit guiding it, still the band that experiments only on a whim and do it so seamlessly it passes you by.


illustrated by Christian Harrop

So yeah, you can watch Fade pass you by, and you can put your faith in it. For all its few stylistic manoeuvres, it’s still mostly a reminder that everything is okay. We move through home-grown songs of a long domesticated band and see that it’s just about fine being here; on “Is That Enough”, Ira sings one half of a conversation between two lovers, asking placid questions with the assurance of thirty long years. It’s refreshing to hear concerns raised and then shelved by these three, even as they’ve been doing it for so long. At a time I felt Yo La Tengo was a way for three friends to work out personal problems, plus feedback; now I can hear them go to their safe place, letting these succinct, whispered songs go just a little beyond the conversation, offering space for them (and us) to feel comfortable.

Fade might sound succinct as a result, retiring the freak-outs that were late to the party on Popular Songs in favour of understatement, for the strings that pull a couple to their resolving dance. The road to “Before We Run” compiles together three acoustic tracks, each collecting the seismic outpour of a Yo La Tengo jam into thirty-odd seconds at their ends – instead of coming apart, these songs gracefully disappear, the guitar tricks finishing them revealing another layer of beauty as day comes. “I’ll Be Around” and “The Point of It” are perfect in this regard, and I truly feel they’re two of the most stunning moments in this band’s career, even as they do little more than keep the warmth of Fade a little longer.

The refinement of jam rock is tantamount to the success of Fade, wisely collecting these sides of the band and compartmentalising them. The running thread is that this stuff is just so pretty, and I’m already there, calling these songs my favourites in Yo La Tengo’s history. (Your mileage may vary – another sign of the mixtape myth at work.) Even “Before We Run”, as a dramatic, shit kicking send-off, is the band holding back from overdoing a getaway. It’s Fade pulsing in its last moments, one of those antithetical Yo La Tengo songs like “Autumn Sweater” that beats up, but only just – it marches to Georgia’s hard drum beat, but it’s commanded by the introverted murmur coming out of her. “Hold it in your arms, be still,” she sings, “I’ll hold you before we run.” We’re still being given the benefit of the doubt by our favourite band, sitting side by side as it puts pause on all our problems. It’s a one-sided relationship, one like Ira and Georgia might sing about, and on Fade we take them for granted one more time.

And I worry about that. Why Fade? These songs burn out, for sure, but that’s not all that’s at work. The band noted the lyrical themes of aging, and for all its ease, Fade is too close to saying goodbye for comfort. As ridiculous as it may be to envision life without Yo La Tengo, the band has been riding the wave for thirty years now. Is it too much for me to expect I’ll never be without them? You’re getting old, Fade seems to admit, “Ohm” resigning itself to double-edged days, preparing the curtain even as it opens (“this isn’t the road we know / so say goodnight to me”), or else asking for the reassurance we’ve so long taken, asking us if it’ll all be okay. I doubt this is really it, but even if I prefer this simple, beautiful Yo La Tengo to the cerebral, brainy one that makes fifteen minute jams and warped Ramones covers, I’d trade anything to have the energy restored. I celebrated Popular Songs, and toasted to many more; I’ll hold Fade close to me for fear of letting go. At least, for now, I have the band I learned to trust in my sleep, there for me now more than ever. Say goodnight.

You might like...


Dean Blunt - Stone Island
read more
Disclosure - Voices
read more
Okkervil River - It Was My Season
read more
Great Cynics - Like I Belong
read more
WASNT WISNT - Standing In Waves
read more
jacques how to dress well
Jacques Greene - On Your Side EP
read more
TV On The Radio - Mercy
read more
Maxïmo Park - Brain Cells
read more

Stay on top of the best new music!

By Volume Weekly is a digest of the newest, sharpest music across genres and boundaries. We'll send you one easy email a week and nothing else. Just tap in your details below and you're ready to go.
* indicates required