Yo La Tengo

A rocked-out brawn-versus-hazy beauty dichotomy has always been key to this Hoboken, New Jersey trio's Sonic Youth-meets-Velvet Underground M.O. The conflict yielded cracked indie diamonds until the bandmates' muse led them astray at the turn of the millennium (see 2000's flaccid And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out and 2002's cotton-candied Summer Sun). Despite being sturdily bookended by a pair of ten-minute-plus ya-yas-out exorcisms — "Pass the Hatchet, I Think I'm Goodkind," making hay out of handclaps, distortion-pedal hemorrhaging, and a taut bass line similar to that of Liz Phair's "Supernova"; and the twisting and turbulent "The Story of Yo La Tango" — I Am Not Afraid of You ... doesn't quite live up to its flexed-biceps title. That the tracks are prettily uninteresting yet mildly engaging in a few new ways, though — the show tune jingle-jangle of "Beanbag Chair" and Fifties sock-hop bop "Watch Out for Me Ronnie" — can only be a positive sign.

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Ray Cummings