Northern Transmissions review of 'There's A Riot Going On' by Yo La Tengo

Matador Records


Yo La Tengo

There's A Riot Going On

Some albums can just sound great without really saying that much. Although they’ve continued to slowly mutate their experimental shoegaze sound over the years, Yo La Tengo have tended to keep things tight. Here however the band craft deep sounds and powerful riffs that end up feeling played to death in what can feel at times like an album of extended interludes. The album often feels like it can’t decide what it wants to be, and makes one wonder exactly what the band was going for.

The album’s oozing tones of sunshine and warmth settle in through the extended slow-burn of “You Are Here” as Yo La Tengo really take their time setting the mood for their album. After this over-extended overture, “Shades of Blue” bounces along with a lovely retro-psychedelic charm that mixes enough influence and originality that it never feels like too much of one thing. While there’s much more going on overall in “She May, She Might” the track is so flatly mixed that nothing really stands out and grabs your attention unfortunately.

The same cannot be said however on “For You Too” as they grind out fuzzy bass with more glistening guitars to hit a lovely bit of contrast. Yo La Tengo utterly commit to their melodies on this record which is a blessing as often as it creates monotony in their longer songs. “Ashes” carries this in spades, providing a much more soothing mood-piece to the wasted momentum of “For You Too.” Though “Polynesia #1” itself tumbles through riffs ad nauseam, it opens up the writing to longer hooks and breaks to at least make it palatable.

Endless monotony runs dry however the farther into the album you go though, as “Dream Dream Away” becomes a mindless chord loop, amplified by a light sonic journey. They do at least start exploring the depths of their sound-crafting on track’s like shortwave, where they guide listeners across a more ethereal hum, as long as it may feel. “Above the Sound” at least harnesses this energy for a meditation on a riff that’s rich with rhythm and an evolving backdrop of horns.

Towards the back half of the album, Yo La Tengo start tightening up this writing as well, with tracks like the dreamy “Let’s Do It Wrong” keeping things brief and to the point. The warped rhythms take over on “What Chance Have I Got” as they start to lean into their more hypnotic rhythms and sounds to create an album of relaxing music. They totally shatter this however on “Esportes Casual” which amounts to a seemingly cheeky bit of musak but makes you question exactly what they’re going for on this record.

They veer this pastiche towards doo-wop on “Forever” as they start to create a psychedelic wash over a goofy vocal hook that. Though their meandering gets tiring this late in the record, they do reach a Budos Band-like majesty in the straightforward rush of “Out Of The Pool” since they don’t try to make it more than it is. The same feeling from “Forever” returns on “Here You Are” but stretches it out to a numbing level.

Words by Owen Maxwell