Tag Archives: Yo La Tengo

Praise from Tony Are: “Living Through 2012: My Year in Music” (Rule of Thumb)

Cover_PicCheck out the full article: Living Through 2012: My Year in Music  “Somebody has to say this, so I guess I will — Schwervon! Is one of America’s best bands. Fickle popular taste and the current state of the music industry may very well prevent them from joining the ranks of the Talking Heads, Nirvana, and the White Stripes in terms of mass appeal, but they are doing so many things right in so many ways that in a just world (which I’m afraid this is not) they would at least be in the same discussion as Sonic Youth or Yo La Tengo or LCD Soundsystem or Wilco. Now spread across 13 years, five albums, and a bunch of singles, they have developed what started out as a sort of primitive duo-pop into unique and lyrically sophisticated music that combines indie-punk aggression, early-Velvet-Underground-style experiments, ingenious harmonies, and such solid song structures that you never forget where you are in a song, and you never wonder if it is leading somewhere.

They understand the amped-up guitar as well as silence and empty space. Every corner you turn in one of their songs brings a shock of pleasure – a guitar freakout that evolves into a hook that stays with you until the next time you hear it, or a plaintive indie-folky intro that mashes seamlessly with a multi-layered pop chorus. The music is deceptively simple, but folds out like a pop-up book – turning lush without layers of distancing overdubs, adding hook after hook without making a huge big deal out of it, and staying unfathomably and deliberately uncatagorizable but completely audience friendly – although their insistence on doing all these wonderful pop things but leaving the rough edges intact may be part of why they haven’t yet been at the top of the charts. And the lyrics, which early in their career were mainly ruminations on relationships (principally the one they have with each other), are now typically dreamscapes which strip the flesh off human interactions, not in order to disguise the personal (or the political), but to reveal the bones beneath.

2012’s “Courage”, recorded in Memphis with engineer Doug Easley (Pavement, Sonic Youth, etc.) continued the winning streak. A masterpiece of brevity, clocking in at just over 23 minutes, it takes on longing, regret, anticipation and, of course, courage. The sessions took place as the band was making the decision to leave New York and make a new life in Kansas City, and in the songs you can feel them reluctantly letting go of what (and who) they were leaving behind and looking toward what was coming next with a mixture of trepidation and excitement. Dave Shouse of The Grifters and  Frances McKee of The Vaselines (who Schwervon have toured with and are in many ways their spiritual predecessors) make candid singing appearances. I can’t put it any more simply: if you haven’t heard them, you need to hear them. If you don’t like them, you need to like them. If you don’t understand why, you need to go back and learn more about music.” – Tony Are is a writer, critic, and occasional musician who lives in New York City. He started playing in bands in 1967 and finally gave up in 2003.  Now he sits in a rocking chair and tells the young whippersnappers how much better it used to be in his day. His poetry is at http://tonyare.weebly.com/index.html.