Yo La Tengo – There's a Riot Going On

Despite the incendiary title, this is more quiet evolution from Yo La Tengo, rather than full blown revolution

Album Review by Finbarr Bermingham | 12 Mar 2018
  • Yo La Tengo – There's a Riot Going On
Album title: There's a Riot Going On
Artist: Yo La Tengo
Label: Matador
Release date: 16 Mar

It’s been a long five years since Yo La Tengo’s last studio album proper. A fascist is running America and a delusional notion of imperialism is tearing Europe apart. Inequality in the west is wider than ever, while kids continue to leave US schools in body bags.

Sly and the Family Stone’s seminal protest album There’s a Riot Goin’ On (1971) was an explosion of passion, fury and aggression, released at the peak of the US civil rights movement. It captured the mood that something had to change and that the change could be driven by art.

That sort of furore is counter to what Yo La Tengo have been doing for over 30 years. Their modus operandi is quiet evolution, and the trend continues on the excellent There’s a Riot Going On, which is referential to Sly Stone in title only. For this is no call to arms, nor is it rife with political statements. It's a celebration of the small changes that we can make in our own worlds, and which YLT continue to make with each record.

Less succinct than predecessor Fade (2013), the whole affair is cloaked in a somnambulistic haze of reverb and ambient noise. Slices of dream pop (Shades of Blue, Forever, Polynesia #1) and a surprising salsa turn (Esportes Casual) punctuate the miasmic state of this record, and a couple of the melodies will ring in your head for days. But you will return for the hypnotic mist, full of subtle bleeps, lifts and flourishes, that envelops this record. As protest albums go, it’s a strange one, but if this is what the revolution sounds like: sign us up.

Listen to: You Are Here, Above the Sound, Shades of Blue