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And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out

music reviewmusic review  out of 4 Music Review: And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out

Artist: Yo La Tengo
Genre: Rock/Pop
Release Date: February 2000

Review by LarryG
2½ stars out of 4

Yo La Tengo are a tough band to label. Their leaders Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley look like, and basically are, a shy, unassuming married couple who can make thoughtful, quiet music. They are also music fans who can create great, likable pop and guitar rock. Ira also likes to experiment, both with spacy atmospherics and loud, feedback filled guitar. 1997's I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One was the best combination of their elements with good rockers and delicate but tuneful ballads. The emphasis on And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out is on the band's quiet and atmospheric side. It doesn't have the same immediacy as their last record. It requires more active listening and its pleasures are more subtle.

Yo La Tengo make it clear from the start of ATNTII-O that it will take some effort to listen to the record. Everyday is all low key percussion(becoming clangy at times), droning ambient synths and affectless singing. On Saturday, Kaplan and Hubley sing, over metronomic percussion, about their mind going out of tune, predictably punctuating that fact with dissonant keyboards. While the experimentation of those songs leaves me cold, I can't resist Let's Save Tony Orlando's House. The deadpan of Hubley's vocals and a mildly perky drum machine perfectly match the bizarre lyric about a jealous Frankie Valli torching the singer's house while Orlando performs to an audience that "he never fails to please." Tears Are In Your Eyes finds the band in their mellow, moody Velvet Underground doing Pale Blue Eyes mode. It's not exactly ground breaking but Hubley's soothing support is nice: "Although you don't believe me you are strong, darkness always turns into the dawn/and you won't remember this for long when it ends alright." The slight, breezy Madeline is the closest Hubley gets to the shy but melodic ballads she sang on I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One. Night Falls On Hoboken is quite gorgeous but its leisurely pace makes it hard to pay attention for the song's entire 17.5 minutes.

Kaplan has a bunch of nice love songs on ATNTII-O. They can be hard to get into because Kaplan's vocals are more of a murmur or a mumble than singing but the sentiments are very sweet and appealing. Kaplan's understated approach makes sense on Our Way To Fall, which is about awkwardly beginning a relationship. Over gentle keyboards and drums, he sings of turning red and staring at his feet after he approaches the woman he was on his way to falling in love with. Our Way To Fall shows the band's appeal. They give the audience an image of an undramatic but real loving relationship between two decent people. The Last Days of Disco is even less of a grabber musically but it has a nice story. Kaplan sings of being a cynical guy who doesn't dance but, under love's spell, enjoys a dance and even appreciates a song's shallow "let's be happy" message. The Crying of Lot G is another quiet one. In his whispered vocal, Kaplan's apologizes for bad behavior, acknowledges his marriage's problems but asks his love to "remember, it isn't always this way." He's similarly repentant on From Black To Blue which is melodic but still very quiet.

There are a lot of good of moments on ATNTII-O but the general lack of energy can be a little wearing. The band's fun remake of George McCrae's You Can Have It All, with Kaplan and bassist James McNew supplying a combination of background singing and vocal percussion, is a welcome relief. It provides warmth and musical and lyrical(if you want my love, take it baby) clarity that the band often lacks on the new record. Cherry Chapstick is the only real exception to ATNTII-O's mellow vibe. Cherry Chapstick sounds like a Sonic Youth tribute. It's a straight ahead rock song that keeps moving like Sonic Youth's Teenage Riot or Sunday. Kaplan's singing is still fairly unmodulated but at least you can hear it without straining. Kaplan has a good time with guitar noise but doesn't go too nuts until the song's last minute.

In the Village Voice, Robert Christgau gave good advice for listening to And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out: play it loud. However, that understates the challenge the CD presents. At any volume, the delicate, understated music requires a lot of attention and is hard to get into. Its consistently quiet, modest tone can be too much after a while. But ATNTII-O, especially in the Ira Kaplan songs, is filled with beauty that's worth seeking out.



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