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coverpic flag 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, please:

coverpic 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).

coverpic 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...

coverpic 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.

coverpic 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 e-mail address

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