Review: Yo La Tengo — Stuff Like That There


yolatengo-stuffYo La Tengo are like the archivists of Rock history, spending a career cataloguing a wide array of Rock styles, from churning power chords to whispery folk to ballsy rhythm & blues to the poppiest of pop. They’ve always struck me as people who really love to listen to music, who happen also to be musicians themselves. They are the ne plus ultra of the DIY ethic.

This makes them likely candidates for an album of covers. They did it in 1990 with Fakebook, and they’re doing it again with their new album Stuff Like That There. But a Yo La Tengo covers album is not your typical covers album. For one thing, they include covers of their own material. I mean, how DIY is that? There are three such covers on this album, plus two new originals.

The other thing about Yo La Tengo covers is that they all come out of left field. The opening track is a beautiful but obscure 1964 song by girl-group singer Darlene McCrea called “My Heart Not’s In It”. They do a really nice job on the Lovin’ Spoonful album cut “Butchie’s Tune”, which was brought to life recently in a Mad Men episode.

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There are tracks covering under-the-radar bands like Antietam and Great Plains, and only two really famous songs are covered. Their version of Hank Williams “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”, as delivered by the hesitant vocal stylings of Georgia Hubley, serves to prove the timeliness of maybe the greatest hurtin’ song of all time. Hubley also brings her low-key treatment to the Cure’s “Friday I’m In Love”, giving this great song a tex-mex feel. And the video’s pretty funny too.

Those looking for the harder edges of Yo La Tengo will be disappointed. All the songs on the album are given a gentle, Calexico-style treatment. Long-time bassist James NcNew used an acoustic standup bass throughout the album, which tends to dictate certain styles.

But the standup bass adds to what amounts to Yo La Tengo’s greatest strength – their humanity and warmth. The complete lack of Rock affectation and artifice with these guys is more evident than ever before. Listening to this album is like visiting some friends, having a couple of glasses of wine, and having these very talented and able people sing for you. It takes a couple of hours before the warm glow fades away.

7 comments to “Review: Yo La Tengo — Stuff Like That There”
    • I’ve got two, “I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One” from 97 and “I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass” from 06. The variety’s the thing with these guys and these albums have really great range.

  1. Man…should’ve read your review before buying my concert ticket! Just saw them in Glasgow, and I canconfirm Ira doesn’t eben “TOUCH” the electric guitar. he just plays the accoustic all night; James “NEVER” leaves the accoustic bass and Georgia avoidss hard drums as well… pretty sad to hear tunes such as “ohm” or “today’s the day” without a microscopic piece of energy. If you expect Ira Kaplan to own the guitar as he normally does, then better stay at home watching their KEXP videos

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