New Jersey - Luna Kafé - Full Moon 11 - 09/16/97
Yo La Tengo
In a Single Year
Some of you might disagree, but 1997 was the year when Yo La Tengo
released their best album so far. That's my point of view. And 1997 was
(well, it's not over yet!) the year when they put out four (so far) singles,
of rather different contents. Let's have a look, shall we? Pass me the goodies,
Yo La Tengo is not the sort of band in need of a hit-single, aiming at the
charts, to promote a new album. I guess they've got a loyal following; the most
devoted of fans, who simply buys a new Yo La Tengo album, trusting the quality
of the name of the band itself. And no-one gets disappointed. Then you get to
pick up the singles released inbetween the albums, as small, remarkable treasures
of intermission. So when the album I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One came
out last April, the single released at the same time was something I didn't
expect to come from YTL: Autumn Sweater EP (Matador, on 12 inch or CD) -
containing the song taken from the album, plus three versions of the same
song. Well, I've always been a bit sceptical to remixes, and singles with only one
song (in lots of versions) on them. Autumn Sweater is a fascinating song,
with the drums, the organ and percussion (maraccas and congas) being the central
instruments, which together with the vocals sounds like a rhythmic indeed Velvet
Underground. Remixes? I really don't care. Anyway, the remix-masters are: Bundy K.
Brown (from Tortoise of Chicago), Mu-ZIQ (?), and Kevin Shields (from My Bloody
Valentine of UK).
Then there was another single, and this time a real one - a vinyl 7 inch -
released by the London, England-based label Earworm. Blue-green Arrow is
a more cautious version of Green Arrow, the sneaky and beautiful instrumental
from I Can Hear The Heart.... It's even more scary with the most bittersweet
guitars. Stunning. The flip-side is another short instrumental, with the witty title
Watching The Sun Set Or Johnny Carson. Calm, with the instruments just
giving hints of a melody. But it's almost over before it starts, which is really too
bad. Maybe it wasn't meant to be nothing but a joke. The tense beauty of a setting sun, compared with The Johnny Carson Show...
The third single of the year was also released by a small English label, Planet
Records. And, I must say, this is a record for die-hard fans only, on which there are
included three songs recorded live. They do two versions (why?) of Rocket # 9,
a composition by Sun Ra. This is Yo La Tengo at the rawest, most frantic, and schizofrenic.
Not very interesting. The third slice, Wig-Out With Charley Dapper is also an
instrumental tune, sounding quite uninspired. This must be recorded late at night, maybe
after one beer too many. It could've been a rejected out-take from Pink Floyd Live at Pompeii.
And who's Charly Dapper? Still, I'm hoping to get to see Yo La Tengo live one day. I know
they're better than this.
The latest single is the rough and poppy Sugarcube (on Matador, as CD single, and
even as a 7"?), which also can be found on the brilliant album I Can Hear The Heart....
A bouncy, buzzing and whirling song. Power-pop! Fuzzy guitars! Tasty!
Whatever you want from me, whatever you want I'll do
Try to squeeze a drop of blood from a sugarcube
The second track is a live version of a song called The Summer, which originally
appeared on their 1990 album Fakebook. It was recorded by John McEntire (from Tortoise),
and it sounds like he's brought his xylophone along up on stage. A slightly mysterious, and a
bit frightening song. Sort of a traumatic summer? The last tune is a cover of Looney Toons,
written by Eddie Cantor (stage, radio, TV, and film comedian/actor/writer, during the 20's - 50's)
Soaring. It's really cool at first, but...14 minutes 16 seconds! And with a fade-out!? Phhhh...
So, all in all, some ups and downs with Yo La Tengo in this singles galore. And still
there are over three months left of 1997. Could we have another single, please?
Copyright © 1997 Håvard Oppøyen