New Jersey indie rockers Yo La Tengo had already been slowly growing into their sound for over a decade by the 1997 release of their revelational eighth album, I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One. Their guitar-based pop was steadily finding its legs before this, as the band moved toward increasingly dreamy productions on albums like Painful and Electr-O-Pura. The 16 tracks that made up the ambitious and epic I Can Hear the Heart found the group stretching out their whispery vocals and deceptively straightforward pop approach to encompass a variety of unexpected styles. This meant softly wandering guitars and steadfast drums twisted out of their indie rock trappings and morphed into adventurous Krautrock jams like "Spec Bebop," haunting, harmony-driven psych-folk like "We're an American Band," and even a playfully naive take on bossa nova with "Center of Gravity".
Tank commander Jeb Stuart gets some lessons about war and death from his ghostly guardian and namesake, Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart. This is a good, self-contained story that doesn't try to revamp these old characters or engage in any politically-correct revisionism. It introduces the lead characters and the strange situation of a World War II tank being haunted by a Civil War general and then goes straight to the action. In this story, the tank must hold a deserted town where the Germans can seemingly strike out of nowhere. In this situation, Jeb will need the help of more than one ghost to get out alive. The concise, yet moving story is a refreshing throwback to the days when continued stories were the exceptions rather than the rule at DC Comics. The threat is menacing without being outlandish and the big twist at the end really surprising without being contrived. The art is adequate, especially in its depiction of the tiny size of the Stuart tank but it is also a bit too 'clean' for a war story. There isn't enough grime, dirt, grease and blood in the background, on the military vehicles or even caked on the faces of the protagonists. --