US - New Jersey - Full Moon 233 - 08/29/15
Yo La Tengo
Stuff Like That There
Matador / Playground
The song "Stuff Like That There" (by Jay Livingston/Ray Evans) was originally recorded in 1944 by American actress, comedian and singer Betty Hutton [it was later to be re-recorded/covered
numerous times]. I'm not sure if Yo La Tengo named their new album with Hutton in mind, but Stuff Like That There is the New Jersey threesome's new record presenting some new songs,
some old, reworked songs. Plus a big handful of cover versions thrown in. Like they have done over the years, especially with their 1990 record, Fakebook. Plus, of course in most of
the high number of concerts they have performed throughout their 30-year-long career. Yo La Tengo love music. That is quite obvious. So, happy 30 to ya, Yo La Tengo!
Yo La Tengo (YLT from now) put out their first seven-inch single, "The River of Water" (b/w Arthur Lee/Love's "A House Is Not a Motel") in 1985. The songs on Stuff Like That There
holds cover versions of bands/artists as diverse as the C&W legend Hank Williams, early R&B artist Darlene McCrea, and NJ doo-wop gang The Parliaments [who later evolved
into/grew to become Parliament and Funkadelic], via the flowery 60s band The Lovin' Spoonful, and the cosmic collaboration The Cosmic Rays with Le Sun Ra and Arkestra [Sun Ra,
being one of YLT's all-time favourite acts], to Louisville, KY's, later NY based husband/wife band act Antietam [who shared the bill when YLT made their concert debut at Maxwell's,
Hoboken in December 1984], the 80s/early 90s, Nashville based band Great Plains, UK's goth-poppers The Cure and the neo-psychedelic dream-poppers Special Pillow (another
Hoboken, NJ band). Stuff Like That There sees YLT revisiting old songs and working with old friends (guitarist Dave Schramm and engineer Gene Holder). And James McNew got to play a
lot upright bass.
Three songs have been put out as 'singles', or teasers: a re-recorded/reworked version of "Deeper Into Movies" (off I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One), a version of The Cure's
Goth-love-song "Friday I'm in Love", and The Special Pillow's "Automatic Doom" [go check out their Inside the Special Pillow, of which I once wrote: 'The
pleasant "Automatic Door" reminds me slightly of fellow, uh..., Hobokians Yo La Tengo and some of their quieter moments from latter year's albums.'] The two all-new originals here are "Rickety"
and "Awhileaway", which don't stand out among the best here. Do not get me wrong, they are solid and good YLT 'stuff', but they don't shine. The tone of Stuff Like That There is low-voiced,
"hushed-down", calm and quiet. This is not an album where YLT (31) stand up and rock off their shirts. That's for the live department. Like they sing in Great Plains' "Before We Stopped To
Think": 'We would write our songs slow, then we'd try to speed them up / We would write our songs soft, then we'd try to make them tough.'
This is about the core and the magic of YLT (as well): sometimes they speed things up, sometimes they tough thing up. I was somewhat suspicious before hearing "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry",
since this is a song covered by so many. YLT manage to deliver a good version, with lead vocals by Georgia - and with some delicate guitar playing by Ira. Georgia also sings "Friday
I'm In Love", which is also a charmingly wry and dry cover version. You'd better check out the music video for the song (directed by one Jason Woliner). Like one comment goes (on youtube):
'Just in case you thought the art of the music video was dead. Yo La Tengo for the win.'.
The informal liner-notes/bio for the record was penned by Lambchop's Kurt Wagner - who's a good friend of YLT's. In fact, the vibe and tone of many songs on Stuff Like That There
make me think of, yes, Lambchop - as examples, you'd better check out "Before We Stopped To Think" or "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry". Several songs got this county-twang sound/vibe. Not that
YLT goes totally, completely hats-on-C&W, but... Just check out "Butchie's Tune" (The Lovin' Spoonful) and "My Heart's Not in It" [Darlene McCrea's 1964 single, written by Goffin/Titelman
- McRea's known from early (1950s/1960s) American R&B girl-groups The Cookies and The Raelettes].
Some of the real highlights from the album are YLT's own songs, like the beautiful "All Your Secrets" (a remake of the track from Popular Songs) and
the very reworked (electric-turned-almost-acoustic) "Deeper Into Movies" (I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One). The latter has lost its dronery. "The Ballad
of Red Buckets" (from Electr-o-pura - which was a favourite album of mine for a long time) is also neatly re-visited and re-arranged. "Automatic Doom" is another favourite, sounding
like it was written for YLT originally. Antietam's "Naples" is also a fine rendition (sung by Georgia) of a song fitting YLT's quiet mood. Another amusing and entertaining track is "I Can Feel
the Ice Melting" (by The Parliaments), as is the doo-wop of "Somebody's in Love" (originally by The Cosmic Rays with Le Sun Ra and Arkestra).
Everything's all done carefully, with love and affection. Yo La Tengo love music. Fact. Both their own songs plus all their favourite songs by their favourite artists. I can hear their
hearts beating as one...
PS! I recommend you to read Kurt Wagner's piece on the album. Here's a short, edited resume:
'...the arrival of a new Yo La Tengo record is a wonder of nature indeed. [...]
Between us I honestly wondered if either would in fact return at all following Fade and a tough winter. But I'm a dumbass.
... the trio has returned to a concept from which in nineteen ninety they made another F-word-titled record: Fakebook. It was the first record by them I ever heard.
That was nineteen ninety three or four.
It's now twenty fifteen and I'll be damned.
Stuff Like That There may well be a 25th anniversary sequel to the idea of Fakebook but to my ears it makes a case for simply returning to what moved Yo La Tengo to make
things in the first place:
embracing the people who they still hold close and making a spirited noise about it.
With Fakebook as template, Stuff Like That There is a record with ties to the past which contribute to the sound they make furthered by an affinity for the sounds they love.
Somehow they compose the already composed by return. It's clear-eyed. It's clever and concealed.
Rare is the band that can cover themselves. Rarer is the band that would even think of it and rarer still is a band that would return to the conception and re-imagine its first
Yo La Tengo choose sources that make you enriched if not empowered. There's a word I swore I'd never use.
Power up, people, this is stuff like that there.'
Stuff Like That There was out yesterday, August 28th. The lucky ones getting their hands on the pre-ordered cpoies received a "...Yo La Tengo full-print tote bag containing a
circa 2015 cassingle (with new unreleased songs) and 'mystery Stuff'."
Copyright © 2015 Mr. Ohm