Yo La Tengo, Prisoners Of Love

Keith Harris

By Keith Harris

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

No band has ever balanced dreamy against disorderly with the casual precision of Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley. From the start, Kaplan's guitar squall mooted accusations that the pair's murmured vocals were bland, while the melodies borne on that swollen feedback were warm, intimate, rarely indulgent. After bassist James McNew signed on as permanent third-wheel in '93, the band compensated for a gradual decrease in dissonance by emphasizing the groove implicit in their flat post-V.U. beat. And yet, collected on the first two discs of this career summation, their most indelible stand-alone pop moments — from the starstruck "Tom Courtenay" to the lovelorn "Sugar Cube" to the dead-serious-but-not-earnest "Nuclear War" ("You can kiss your ass goodbye") — sound unexpectedly of a piece. As, in fact, do the more weirdly transcendent bits consigned to disc three, particularly an unforgiving assault on Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams."