Category: Yo La Tengo

Yo La Tengo – May I Sing With Me

ARTIST: Yo La Tengo                      

TITLE: May I Sing With Me

YEAR RELEASED: 1992

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Upside Down

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: If you’re a fan

LINEUP: Georgia Hubley, Ira Kaplan, James McNew

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Perhaps the beginning of the true Yo La Tengo cult. Ira Kaplan’s guitar flipouts define this era of the band.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Yo La Tengo combined their love of pop and noise with this record. “Upside Down” is one of the better non-grunge alternative rock songs of 1992, with a great hook and enough guitar noise for the rockers.

The entire album is split between the noisier blowouts “Mushroom Cloud of Hiss” and some quiet pop, a pattern they would follow the rest of their careers (sometimes alternating noisy albums with quiet ones).

It’s not always successful, as some of the tracks tend to be a bit bland, and some of the noise is just…noise. But it’s the start of Yo La Tengo’s true dichotomous period.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The original CD inside cover featured a letter from a disgruntled fan who thought they were a band just like the Fakebook album, and was dismayed when they were loud. He ended the letter with a anti-semitic slur.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No 

GRADE: B+: At times, draggy, but it’s got “Upside Down” and all of the noise you expect from YLT.

Yo La Tengo – Fakebook

ARTIST: Yo La Tengo                                220px-Fakebook

TITLE: Fakebook

YEAR RELEASED: 1990

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Speeding Motorcycle

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: It’s a cover record, but there’s not many you’d know besides “Here Comes My Baby” or maybe “Griselda”

LINEUP: Ira Kaplan, Georgia Hubley, Dave Schramm, Al Greller

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A quieter folky album of some of their favorite tunes, and a few originals in the same mode.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: By this time, Yo La Tengo had already had a reputation for guitar freakouts and long songs, especially in concert. But the band also had a very diverse taste, and this is the first sense that they were more than a loud alternative rock band.

Kaplan and Hubley’s joy for singing and playing these songs are apparent, as they dive in with glee to these old songs. Old friend Dave Schramm joins the group again on lead guitar, and Al Greller plays double bass.

It’s not going to be among the essential works for the band, but it was the first to show their other sides and pretty darn good for something that seemed to be just for fun.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They covered tracks by Cat Stevens, Pete Stampfel, the Flamin’ Groovies, Daniel Johnston, Rex Garvin, Gene Clark, Ray Davies, the Escorts, John Cale, and NRBQ.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE: B+: A fun listen.

Yo La Tengo – President Yo La Tengo

ARTIST: Yo La Tengo Presidentyolatengo

TITLE:  President Yo La Tengo

YEAR RELEASED: 1989

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: The Asparagus Song (a bonus track now)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW:  Maybe not

LINEUP: Ira Kaplan, Georgia Hubley, Gene Holder or Stephan Wichnewski

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The guitar freakouts continue, the covers show up, and one song becomes a YLT classic.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: While this album is short (could be called an EP, but it’s over 30 minutes), it’s also a game changer for the band. 220px-Artist_YO_LA_TENGO_album_PRESIDENT_YO_LA_TENGO_NEW_WAVE_HOT_DOGS_RERELEASE

“Barnaby, Hardly Working” has become a fan favorite and a turning point for Yo La Tengo. The structure and sound of the track is the basis for the band going forward – the guitar feedback loop at the beginning is an infamous YLT sound. Likewise “The Evil That Men Do (Pablo’s Version)”, which is one of two remakes from a track from their first album, is a touchstone for their penchant for double digit long guitar freakouts.

Then there’s the gentle, reverent cover “I Threw It All Away”, which is quiet and placid, and shows their true feeling for the song.

Not every track is quite as winning as those, but this is a big step in the right direction.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This is now included (and even streaming) with New Wave Hot Dogs.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No, except above

GRADE: B+: Love the feedback and the drone sounds, which later became the signature for the band.

Yo La Tengo – New Wave Hot Dogs

ARTIST: Yo La Tengo Yo_La_Tengo_-_New_Wave_Hot_Dogs

TITLE:  New Wave Hot Dogs

YEAR RELEASED: 1987

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: The Asparagus Song (a bonus track now)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW:  Maybe not

LINEUP: Ira Kaplan, Georgia Hubley, Stephan Wichnewski

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: YLT takes a big step, as Kaplan is the sole guitarist and decides to let his inner guitar hero out for some tunes.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Kaplan and Hubley regrouped after two members left Yo La Tengo, with Kaplan taking charge of the guitar. While some songs are still in the gentler neo-folkie ground, but songs like “Clunk”, “Let’s Compromise” and “House Fall Down” show where Kaplan really liked to go – loud, distorted and fun.

A song like “Lewis” which is one of the songs that doesn’t go all loud and distorted shows a better touch by Kaplan on his playing as well and “Serpentine” introduces their love of the farfisa organ adding to the guitar workout. 220px-Artist_YO_LA_TENGO_album_PRESIDENT_YO_LA_TENGO_NEW_WAVE_HOT_DOGS_RERELEASE

It’s a better record than their debut, the songs are better, the sound is better and Kaplan’s songs are better. His new guitar sound enhances the record. It would take some time for them to evolve into the indie force they have become, but it’s another good step.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This is now included (and even streaming) with their follow-up EP President Yo La Tengo.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Well, “The Asparagus Song” is also appended on the two-fer.

GRADE: B: Better guitar sounds, better songs. A decent album, but still not where to start the YLT journey.

 

Yo La Tengo – Ride the Tiger

ARTIST: Yo La Tengo Ride_the_Tiger_(album)_cover
TITLE: Ride the Tiger
YEAR RELEASED: 1986
CHART ACTION: None
SINGLES: None
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: If you have a YLT comp or two – maybe.
LINEUP: Ira Kaplan, Georgia Hubley, Dave Schramm, Mike Lewis
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The start of a long and commendable career, the first YLT album has some of the charm, but is more a straight forward four piece band at this time.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Hoboken’s finest created a small stir in independent circles in 1986 with their debut release. The indy circuit then wasn’t as big as it is now, so in terms of sales and real ink, not so much.

But the building blocks were there. This was mostly a collection of Ira Kaplan songs, the guitar chords and changes were interesting. They had a great choice of a cover (the Kinks Big Sky). What they didn’t have was the sonic adventure that a YLT normally has. The songs are decent. It’s a good, not great, 1986 independent record.

The album reminds me of the Feelies a bit, which is ironic since the Feelies released their second record on the same record company that year.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Kaplan is kind of a guitar hero now (in a very YLT way) but he said in an interview that Dave Schramm’s guitar was the best thing on the record.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, a reissue has an early single and two live cuts.

GRADE: B-: It’s not bad. It’s consistent. I like it. But there’s nothing that really moves you.