Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Yo La Tengo: "Stuff Like That There" (album review)

It really makes me feel old to think that Yo La Tengo recently celebrated their 30th anniversary as a band.  They marked the occasion, in part, with the release of the new album Stuff Like That There.

This isn't a new studio album.  Instead it's a collection of covers and self-covers with a handful of new tracks sprinkled in for good measure.

The interpretations are strangely most effective when they are at their cutesiest.  The saccharine "Somebody's In Love" and the campfire twee of "My Heart's Not In It" are delicious because of their self-aware sappiness rather than in spite of it.

Most of the tracks on the record are throwaways though.  Cuts like "All Your Secrets", "Naples", the brand new "Awhileaway", and the reworking of "The Ballad of Red Buckets" cross the line from snoozy over to boring.

The treatment of the Hank Williams classic "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" doesn't fair much better.  It takes an already slow songs and makes it glacial, while at the same time stripping it of it's all-important emotion.  YLT's take on The Cure's "Friday I'm In Love" succeeds thanks to the band's trademark quirkiness.

The rootsier elements that come through on the rendition of The Lovin' Spoonful's "Butchie's Tune" and the jaunty cha-cha "I Can Feel the Ice Melting" provide the most warm and fun-filled moments on the album.

In all this is not a record for the YLT newcomer.  You need to be a huge fan of the band to get almost anything out of this.

Yo La Tengo play the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Toronto on September 30th.

Best tracks: "My Heart's Not In It", "I Can Feel the Ice Melting"

Track listing for Stuff Like That There:

  • My Heart's Not In It
  • Rickety
  • I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry
  • All Your Secrets
  • The Ballad of Red Buckets
  • Friday I'm In Love
  • Before We Stopped To Think
  • Butchie's Tune
  • Automatic Doom
  • Awhileaway
  • I Can Feel the Ice Melting
  • Naples
  • Deeper In Movies
  • Somebody's In Love

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