By Jeff Moses
By Serene Dominic
By Benjamin Leatherman
By Glenn BurnSilver
By Glenn BurnSilver
By Troy Farah
By Roger Calamaio
By Mark Deming
Every great band has a so-called "quiet" one -- they're the ones you gotta watch. For indie-rock statesfolk Yo La Tengo, that's James McNew, the "new" member, third wheel to guitarist Ira Kaplan and drummer Georgia Hubley's marriage for a mere decade.
As with most quiet ones, the mask's a put-on for the inattentive; he's got spirit the band didn't possess prior, causing a ruckus on the sideline. His ruckus is called Dump, filled with loving, musically referential jokes and covers (the last was '99's all-Prince album That Skinny Motherfucker With the High Voice?), eclectic to a fault, and never any less than full of life. Bedroom indie as fuck, it shakes any presumption that McNew only lives for his day job.
In contrast, the pretty Summer Sun, Yo La's new one, only questions the value of good taste. It's dimly lit and fuzzy, warm with dainty music-box melodies and harmonic creature comforts, pedal-steel decorations and tchotchke percussion, a sedate continuation of 1997's I Can Hear the Heart Beat As One and 2000's And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out. It's made as though Yo La Tengo isn't leaving the house anytime soon, or if it is, it's only to the neighborhood bar's lounge-patio to again take over eccentric house band duties. A lovely and sometimes foggy notion, but if you live in the neighborhood, and you like going to that bar just to get a little dissonance on, maybe you don't want the same sugar cube each time, even if it is sprinkled with ambient jazz experimentalism. For some, Summer Sun may best be left shaded.
All the brattiness Sun lacks, A Grown-Ass Man realizes. McNew's fourth Dump album surfs his record collection on a four-track board, impersonating Motown soul sides and California dreams without attitudes or snooze buttons, interchangeably covering Thin Lizzy and the Isley Brothers. In fact, the Kiwi-pop jets in "The History of Love" provide more rock 'n' roll vigor than these projects ever have the right to, furthering the myth of the quiet one more time, roaring sweet somethings.