Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Yo La Tengo's Odd and Ends Better Than Some Bands' Primary Releases

Yo La Tengo has been around longer than cell phones (in the mass-consumption sense). Somehow that reassures me. Their 2-CD compilation Prisoners of Love has much good music that they’ve made during their initial tenure at the top of the "unpopular" (as in not pop) underground indie-alt rock pile. We’ll take a look at that set in a few days but first, I want to talk about the optional third disk available in the set (or separately as a download): A Smattering of Outtakes and Rarities 1986-2002 (Matador). This is a judicious grouping of 16 tracks—unreleased, rare, alternate versions, remixes, original versions. There’s even a very grungy version of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams.”

Listening to this album, I never get the feeling that these are leftovers in any negative sense. If nobody told me it was a rarities comp, I would have thought it just an excellent album, which it is.

It shows you all facets of the group, the garage sophistication, the psyche-jams, the space age retro, the melodic songs with simple but really attractive guitar-bass-drum elements, the songs where what’s-her-name the drummer sings, the mesmerizing sound tapestries.

This to my mind establishes how good the band really is. If your leftovers are very hip and excellent, then there is depth, there is breadth, there is warp, there is woof (woof-woof). I am pleased. Do you care? The point is that I think you’ll be pleased too. To hell with the “hit parade,” Yo La Tengo is currently in the top ten of MY indie charts. And that to me is what matters. Your charts might find this up there, too.

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