James McNew, gunslinger for Yo La Tengo, has been stepping out on his main gig for nearly a decade. While his dalliances on the side have been few and far between, they've often also been a far cry from Yo La Tengo. Instead of grand, elegant instrumentals and stoned-out rock, Dump is often a sublime, lo-fi affair, highlighting the singer-songwriting skills that often get overlooked. You can't really compare the two bands, but it's good to know that he's got an outlet for his own musings.
Critics have often accused--somewhat rightly--that Dump records fit too heavily into the lo-fi acoustic mold, but A Grown-Ass Man is actually pretty varied. Sure, moments like "Peggy's Blues" and "I Wish/You Wish" are of the lo-fi folkie style that McNew's always done with Dump, but he's got a few other little surprises up his sleeve--such as the wonderful cover of Thin Lizzy's "Cowboy Song" and his duet with the lovely Sue Garner on "Once Upon A Time." These songs have a bit more polish than past records; the droned-out "Sisters" sounds like a Yo La Tengo outtake, and all throughout the album, everything just seems so much better than previous records. I won't tell you about the awesome one-two punch of "Daily Affirmation" and "Mr. Too Damn Good"--you need to experience this on your own!
Of course, Dump isn't Yo La Tengo--yet. A Grown-Ass Man is McNew's most solid Dump record; it doesn't fall into the monotony of previous releases, and it just sounds really, really good. Perhaps he's realized that this is a place for him to shine, and since Yo La Tengo's reputation has grown tremendously since his last true full length, the good-but-could-be-better-considering A Plea For Tenderness, it should harldy be a surpise that McNew's other projects are becoming just as wonderful as his day job.