Review: Yo La Tengo – Stuff Like That There
After thirteen albums the Hoboken, New Jersey legends Yo La Tengo return with an album of cover versions, reworked originals and a handful of new tunes. The follow-up to 2013’s excellent Fade, Stuff Like That There hones in on the gentler side of the band, leaving the squalling, wall of noise guitars for another day. This album is perfect for anyone on a major de-stress regime. The vocals are almost whispered and instruments are brushed and plucked discreetly as to not wake the neighbours.
The band released an album called Fakebook twenty five years ago with exactly the same concept as Stuff Like That There. Although this new creation isn’t as remarkable in its musical and sonic ambitions, for me personally the album has a cohernet tone throughout and the songs weave together and create forty eight minutes of loveliness.
I must admit that I had only previously heard the originals of I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry and Friday I’m in Love, so hats off to Ira Kaplan, Georgia Hubley, James McNew and returning, original guitarist Dave Schramm for introducing me to some great songs by Darlene McCrea, Great Plains andAntietam. I imagine by choosing some lesser known acts the band want their fans to check out other songs by these artists. I for one will be heading to my nearest premium music streaming service of choice to explore and enjoy the originals and the albums that spawned them.
Even when tackling the aforementioned Friday I’m in Love by The Cure, the song, beautifully delivered by Georgia Hubley, is plaintive and more resigned than the jangly slice of gothic pop originally a hit in 1992 for Robert Smith’s gang. It seems Ira Kaplan has handed the slightly more upbeat numbers to Hubley on this record. It works an absolute treat, almost song to song the listener gets a call and response between Kaplan’s low, hushed tones and Hubley’s sweet delivery.
Although an acoustic based record, there’s some soaring guitar work, most notably on The Ballad of Red Buckets. Having seen the band live a few years ago, they can certainly ‘shred’ when the occasion suits but the electric guitar is used tastefully and adds texture to the fragile sounding recordings.
The album could easily have continued at a sedate pace however it receives a bit of a sixties influenced shot in the arm with covers of The Lovin’ Spoonful and Special Pillow creating a joyful vibe. The album closes with the majestic Somebody’s In Love, full of lush harmonies and doo-wop vocal flourishes, it shows off the groups often under appreciated playful side. It’s a fine end to a wonderful collection of songs.
Over thirty years since the band’s formation and with the members now in their late 40s/mid 50s you would imagine Yo La Tengo to be pretty comfortable in their own skin. Although there are songs in this collection that span decades, Stuff Like That There is very much an album with vision and focus. More importantly however is that it’s a highly enjoyable, welcome addition to the Yo La Tengo catalogue.
Words by Gary Page.