ROBOTS & ELECTRONIC BRAINS

Yo La Tengo @ The Junction, Cambridge (3rd May 2000)

Pity poor Sonic Boom. Not only have recent releases as E.A.R. been, frankly, disappointing given previous glories but, tonight, on stage with Bonzo Dog Neil Innes and Yo La Tengo, he's stumbling around clutching his set list like a newly-invested Cub Scout lost on Dartmoor without a compass. It's understandable though. He's probably as astonished as the audience are by the sublime 15-minute sequence immediately following the interval (yes, interval) where he first finds himself singing Daniel Johnston's "True Love Will Find You In The End," is next relegated to hitting a cymbal with a brush at occasional moments while Yo La Tengo breeze through a Bonzo Dog cover accompanied by Neil Innes on piano and then removed from the stage altogether as Ira Kaplan and James McNew throw moves Gladys Knight's Pips would've been proud of along to a backing tape on forthcoming single "You can have it all."

Nowhere else will you find a band with this fluidity or level of telepathic interaction between its members. It's no wonder Sonic can't connect, there's an impermeable wall around Yo La Tengo's minds. Towards the end of the set, this is illustrated perfectly. Freed from the positional restraints that standing in front of microphones imposes by a rough-edged instrumental, Kaplan and McNew are drawn in towards Georgia Hubley's trap set and the direction of the tune is orchestrated by brief glances and slight nods. The three of them form a triangular unit, self-sufficient and powerful, while Innes and, especially, Boom are marooned, mere onlookers to Ira Kaplan's unfeasible genuflection and guitar bullying. YLT have been going for 15 years without running out of ideas and, even if not all of this collaboration seems to have paid off so far, you wouldn't bet against them putting in another 15 years of the same.


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