Album review: Yo La Tengo

Yo La Tengo - Stuff Like That There (Matador Records)

THIS IS not the first Yo La Tengo covers album, that was 2006's Yo La Tengo Is Murdering The Classics, featuring their take on artists as diverse as Yes and The Stooges. Stuff Like That There is a different, though equally eccentric, beast.

For this album, the band - Ira Kaplan, Georgia Hubley, James McNew, and former member Dave Schramm - deliver a set of covers by a variety of artists, along with re-imaginings of some of their own songs. This latter aspect is the really tricky one. Fans might be very precious about the originals, so there is always the risk of disappointing them. However good things were never made by people who calculatedly sought only to please.

Take 'Deeper Into Movies' from 1997's I Can Here The Heart Beating As One. It was a noisy, ramshakle, mess of a song with the vocals buried deep in the mix. For Stuff... it is transformed into something haunting and atmospheric, with Kaplan and Hubley's vocals blending sublimely over acoustic guitars. It is unrecognizable, and all the better as the songwriting has been allowed to shine, revealing it to be front-rank indie.

Similarly, the new version of 'All Your Secrets' ditches the seventies game show organ tone that was a little too intrusive on the original and opts for a quieter arrangement which highlights the warmth of Kaplan's voice and the appealing vocal melody.

Of the covers by others, Hubley delivers the best. Her take on Hank William's 'I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry' is well handled, while 'My Hearts Not In It' by sixties r'n'b girl group The Cookies is transformed into a delightful, sweet, loping, country song. The absolute highlight though is The Cure's 'Friday I'm In Love'. Robert Smith's original was exuberant and energetic pop, but Hubley quietens it into something more intimate and private, and in this guise reveals the middle-8 to be the beating heart of the song, where the experience of new love becomes a rush and thrill leading to wonder and awe.

Covers should bring a fresh perspective to an old song, which is what YLT do on this album. Stuff... won't win them new fans, but long-time fans and die-hard indie heads will find plenty to enjoy and admire here.



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