Yo La Tengo – There’s a Riot Going On

I believe HAL 9000 would surely dream if Dr. Chandra played a copy of the latest Yo La Tengo. So much for this nerdy reference. Let’s have a dream of our own on Earth. 

Five years ago we called Yo La Tengo’s Fade a timeless piece of music. It was Hubley’s and Kaplan’s 13th album at the time and marked their 30th anniversary. With a title like that and a rich catalogue under their belt retirement could be a logical step but instead was followed by two cover albums. Now Hoboken’s finest bring forth There’s a Riot Going On which again offers an abundance of high quality indie pop.

Yo La Tengo is usually associated with slow pop song and on There’s a Riot Going On this is no different. When I first streamed the album I even thought is was too slow to stick to mind. This initial thought proved short lived when I got trapped in ‘Shortwave’. At first I didn’t even realized I was listening to the halfway mark of There’s a Riot Going On. ‘Shortwave’ consists of some incomprehensible layered ambient which is probably the best instrumental the band has ever made. From this point on I began to explore the first and second part of the album.

From the start on Yo La Tengo meanders its way through one lovely arrangement after another. Especially ‘Dream Dream Away’, ‘She May, She Might’ have a great feeling for tempo and structure. The meandering never becomes too wild. Only on ‘For You Too’ things seem to break out of the headphones experience. For a bit that is, because ‘Polynesia #1’ pulls you back under in a fuzzy blanket of aimless ambient soft rock again.

The album’s second part is a continuation of the slow-motion action painting by Hubley, Kaplan and the others. ‘What Chance Have I Got’ is relaxed and layered which such a perfect balance between a finessed piano and delicate vocals. Near the end Yo La Tengo winks to Sly & The Family Stone from which they nicked the title of the album. The out of place “shoo-wop shoo-wop” refrain and odd squelches of ‘Forever’ create a unnerving backdrop, while on ‘Out Of The Pool’ distorted guitars and Kaplan’s spoken-word feel like a LSD trip gone bad.

There’s a Riot Going On is a 63 minute dive into the depths of the human mind. The dreamy premises and subtle soundscapes are unique if you give it some time to grow on you. With that in mind you also have to accept that the strength is in the stillness. There is no return to the success years of the nineties on There’s a Riot Going On. What I admire most is that Yo La Tengo’s music fits is almost every situation, …preferably late at night. Casual admirers like me will therefore welcome the album with open arms but if you were looking for a indie pop riot there nothing to hear here. Better move along.

Label: Matador, 2018


  1. You Are Here (5:43)
  2. Shades of Blue (2:51)
  3. She May, She Might (5:22)
  4. For You Too (4:13)
  5. Ashes (3:32)
  6. Polynesia #1 (2:25)
  7. Dream Dream Away (5:49)
  8. Shortwave (5:44)
  9. Above the Sound (5:41)
  10. Let’s Do It Wrong (3:33)
  11. What Chance Have I Got (3:05)
  12. Esportes Casual (1:25)
  13. Forever (4:19)
  14. Out of the Pool (2:46)
  15. Here You Are (6:55)

Further surfing:
Official site
YLT on Twitter

Review by Wander Meulemans // 040418



2 thoughts on “Yo La Tengo – There’s a Riot Going On

  1. Pingback: Sounds from the Dark Side top albums of 2018 (until now) | soundsfromthedarkside

  2. Pingback: Album Year Lists (2018) | soundsfromthedarkside

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