By Alec Warkentin
It’s a bold call on the part of Yo La Tengo to name their latest album after Sly and the Family Stone’s seminal 1971 masterwork, but not entirely unfounded. Much like the era in which its predecessor was recorded, There’s a Riot Going On exists in a time rife with hyper-political criticism. But rather than release a collection of soul-infused jams, Yo La Tengo have opted for a much more plaintive approach.
Musically, There’s a Riot Going On is an extension of the sound that the Hoboken three-piece have curated over their almost 35 years in the business. Singer-guitarist Ira Kaplan and drummer Georgia Hubley leapfrog vocal duties, with the former taking the helm on “She May, She Might” and “For You Too,” and Hubley on the melancholic “Shades of Blue” and “Ashes.” But perhaps the biggest change with Riot is their foray into mostly ambient tracks (“You Are Here,” “Short Wave”) which finds the band at their most patient, comfortably letting themselves drift into almost six-minute pieces of drone and diegesis.
It’s safe to say that with this album Yo La Tengo transcend genre in a very distinct way, ebbing closer into the ethos of feeling rather than form. Much like the American societal dissonance that’s threatening to tear a country apart, There’s A Riot Going On has a power running underneath its surface; a decades-old build-up mirrored now in a band with fifteen albums under their belt. They feel something big is happening. Don’t you?Matador Records, Record Review, There’s a Riot Going On, Yo La Tengo