The first time was when they opened up for Juliana Hatfield at – was it Mary Jane’s? Was it the Shimmy Shack? – the place on Washington in the Heights’ lower scuzz belt.
The second time was when they played Fitzgerald’s and it was so long ago I can’t even remember what the reason was.
Another time was when they played Bates College in 2004. Are you kidding me? Bates f***ing College? In Lewiston? Who does that? No one! Except they did.
These are all times when I missed seeing my 15-year band crush, Yo La Tengo. There are others, too. It’s become such a quest that my knuckles sweat whenever I hear their name mentioned by anyone else. Because I know that potentially, that person is mentioning the band’s name in reference to a live show he or she once saw. And there is just absolutely no way, no way in hell, that this person cares as much as I do about Yo La Tengo. Certainly this person didn’t deserve the privilege of seeing Yo La Tengo before I did. Why aren’t Ira and Georgia and James doing something about this?
But now that I’m off probation from the assault charge and can travel freely between states again, I am heading down to Boston on September 16, bandmates in tow, to witness YLT live for the first time. Presale tickets are available here for a variety of shows (nothing in Texas yet, y’all…).
My peeve: Ordering a presale ticket does get you a CD but not any sooner than the release date. To do that, you have to go through Matador’s Buy Early Get Now program, which appears to charge you $13 for a streaming copy, the actual CD (which, if you ordered a ticket, you’re already getting, so, uh, what?), and a hodgepodge of bonus stuff. I’ll pass.
What’s great about the presale, though? Why, the chance to download two new tracks right now. And “review” them, whatever that means to a fanboy like me. It’s pretty much another reason to delve into why I think they’re geniuses.
It’s partly just the fuzz bass that makes me all happy when I hear “Here to Fall.” (I’d turn on and leave on the distortion all the time if people’d just get off my back and let me be.) McNew’s fuzz bass is about the most enjoyable and satisfying I’ve heard, and it’s been consistently that way since he used it to form the backbone of “From a Motel 6″ on Painful. Here it serves as the same driving force you hear through out “Pass the Hatchet, I Think I’m Goodkind” on their most recent work. Unlike that track, however, McNew goes beyond the simple three-note repeated riff. He accents the important parts of the string arrangements that give this song its epic mid-’70s-movie-soundtrack feel. Of course, he does so tastefully and not all the time. If I had a hero to guide my own playing, McNew is probably the guy. Mark Sandman could also be the guy. But until I have a two-string slide bass, and on the basis of continued strength and longevity, I’ll go with McNew.
Bass, strings, melody – all make this song solid. But to be more than a retro pop confection, this song requires an angle, a lens, something to set it apart. That’s where Hubley’s drums come in. To offset a loping 4/4 time signature straight out of Sea Change, Hubley refuses to nail down the 2 and 4 beats with a simple snare drum. Instead, she opts for an open hi-hat (and occasional light crash cymbal) on every beat, preceded immediately by a snare every single time. The resulting effect is as if the song were rolling headfirst down a really tall hill. Fills emphasize the same effect, being straightforward sixteenth notes on the snare.
Kaplan’s laconic vocals are here as always (though they are doubled here, so there’s maybe more urgency than usual in them). But if the song is about being together with someone during a crisis – not overcoming that crisis but just being there – then those seem like a good fit to me.
I liked “Periodically Double or Triple” right off the bat simply because of the first line – “Never read Proust, seemed a little too long” – and how I can personally connect that notion to my brother’s and wife’s affection for each other. This line and the rest of the song make me feel as if YLT are desperately attempting to take on the role of The Lovin’ Spoonful in a future remake of Woody Allen’s “What’s Up, Tiger Lily?” – but I do like it. I really want to know the source of the sample that pretends to be a bridge in the middle of this track. In addition, the organ freakout solo is delicious.
As you can tell, I don’t find myself as able to dive as far into this track as the other. What I do know is that it would be difficult for me to attempt to review this song simply because of my crippling fanboy status. I think that status makes it much more difficult to take a look at a song that seems so far removed from the noisy indie-rock roots of YLT and judge it on its musical merits. But they pull off this late-60s tribute with significant skill. Maybe that’s what they call musical maturity. And never mind that this particular version of maturity’s got a big old dollop of silly on top.