1993, Music

Painful (1993) by Yo La Tengo

I have only ever heard one Yo La Tengo album, I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One, and I suspect it has ruined me for their earlier career (or, perhaps, the entirety of the rest of their career). That record may or may not be their best – I wouldn’t know – but it gives you a certain impression of the band, a diverse impression of a band clearly interested in a particular aesthetic but also very, very capable of doing anything they wanted to. Well, they were not that band in 1993.

As I say all the time – too much! – expectations are a terrible thing. It’s pretty clear that the band that made this record grew somewhat (perhaps even enormously) in the 1990s. Though I knew these guys could get dreamy and fuzzy I don’t think I realized that was literally what they did earlier in their career. And that’s too bad because I suspect that I would have been more more open to this album had I never heard their later record, despite the fact that dream pop isn’t really my thing.

This is a rather fine example of the genre: the songs are arguably stronger melody wise than those from a lot of these bands, and they’re strong enough to overcome the sometimes borderline coy vocals. Moreover, this record has more of an edge to it – despite those vocals – than a lot of dream pop from around this time, which I greatly appreciate. (I cannot tell you how much I appreciate it.)

But the record is still just a dream pop record – bordering on shoegaze at times – and that is disappointing to me, not because of anything the band themselves have done but only because I heard a better album of theirs and I was hoping for something else than what I got. Ah well.


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