Aftermath: Yo La Tengo's Introspection, Mayhem and Perfection at Warehouse Live

Shortly after Aftermath's arrival at Warehouse Live, and the procurement of a few $4 Shiners, Times New Viking mounted the stage and reminded us that they sound like a punky version of a 1950s girl-group swathed in dreamy sheets of lo-fi noise. As the band launched into its first number, Beth Murphy's keys were drowned out by the fuzzed-out but muscular pounding of Jared Phillips' guitar and Adam Elliot's steady yet manic drums. Murphy's vocals, likewise, were submerged beneath the seething wall of sound.

This pretty well sums up Times New Viking's performance. Although different elements drifted to the fore on some numbers, only to fade back into the storm on the next, the general formula of caustic yet melodic sound swathing everything held sway over the 40 minutes or so the band was onstage. It was well done, even exciting at times, but had a feeling of sameness we just couldn't shake.

In typically nonchalant fashion, Yo La Tengo walked onstage after a brief reset, grabbed their respective instruments, and eased into a slowly building number, proving that YLT can milk a crescendo like nobody else.

"Periodically Double or Triple", the almost claustrophobically tight funk/soul number from last year's Popular Songs, followed. Lock-step groove, squalling organ solos, and delicate scat singing played even better live than on record.

After another organ fueled Popular Songs number, this time the restrained "All Your Secrets", augmented with a gorgeous gospel inflected organ solo courtesy of Ira Kaplan, and more cutesy scat from Georgia Hubley and James McNew, the band started digging into its back catalogue, flipping between classics and new classics for the rest of the night. An intimate rendering of "The Crying of Lot G" sounded as if Ira's plea to "stop, and remember" were being whispered directly in our ear.

"Stockholm Syndrome" followed, chiming and ebullient. James' evocative high tenor paired against Georgia's deeply throaty counterpoint, creating an effective juxtaposition of sound and expectation. "If It's True" channeled the Four Tops, its pop standard cadence and tinkling piano somehow feeling right at home with the rest of the set.

The band did a fine job of balancing dynamics, shifting cleanly between soft introspection, sonic mayhem, and pop perfection. Fitting all of these into one song, "Sugarcube" brought the already lively crowd to a frenzy, as Ira's machine-gun guitar scatter paired against the song's underlying gentleness, carried in the vocals and James' keyboard backing. Few songs manage to merge noise and pop so cleanly.

"Tom Courtenay" likewise thrilled, its epic sweep seeming to engage the band as much as the audience.

Closing the show with a double encore, the Yo Las reworked one of their favorite covers, The Kinks' "Big Sky," and it was jangly perfection. Ira does the talking song thing very well, and this song is good proof. After that, TNV was invited onstage to join in a thrilling rendition of Atv's "Action Time Vision," after Ira walked Jared Phillips through the changes.

It left us questioning how it is that Atv managed to get swept under the rug. Amid calls for "Tighten Up," the band then covered a Condo Fucks song, bashing exuberantly through "Come On Up," whose exact provenance we haven't yet cleared up (it seemed to have been a favorite of obscure psych acts of the '60s). Closing out the proceedings, Georgia offered a beautiful rendition of "Alyda," its soft and wistful melody capping the evening on a bittersweet note.

All in all, hearing YLT run through such wide swathes of its catalogue at one time, dipping into the many pools from which it has drunk over the years, reminds us how masterful this band has become. As we mentioned to Aftermath's younger brother, "This band can basically do whatever the fuck it wants to."

They can, they did, it was amazing.

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Nicholas L. Hall is a husband and father who earns his keep playing a video game that controls the U.S. power grid. He also writes for the Houston Press about food, booze and music, in an attempt to keep the demons at bay. When he's not busy keeping your lights on, he can usually be found making various messes in the kitchen, with apologies to his wife.
Contact: Nicholas L. Hall