Published Aug 28, 2015Amassing an extensive catalogue of cover songs is something that's typically reserved for jam bands or wedding bands. The Grateful Dead, through their old-timey cover songs, were largely responsible for introducing hippies to bygone bluegrass and country greats like Bill Monroe and Cannon's Jug Stompers, while bands like Phish can be credited for turning heads toward more technical artists like Frank Zappa and early Genesis.
Among record collectors and fans of the obscure, Yo La Tengo (and their alter ego, Condo Fucks) have gained a similar reputation for keeping alive a vast jukebox of idiosyncratic and oddball cover songs by artists like '70s proto-punks Richard Hell and the Voidoids, '60s psych-poppers the Flamin' Groovies and avant-jazz legend Sun Ra. One thing's for sure: no one's ever accused Yo La Tengo of being uncool.
Coinciding with the 25th anniversary of their 1990 cover album, Fakebook, Stuff Like That There offers a new collection of acoustic-oriented covers that, like its predecessor, evokes a more laid-back, sing-song, Feelies-inspired side of the group's otherwise feedback-driven, often groove-heavy, indie rock. As on Fakebook, the range of artists included — from the Parliaments to Hank Williams to '50s R&B singer Darlene McCrea to the Lovin' Spoonful to the Cure to Sun Ra — is exceptionally broad.
Only a band like Yo La Tengo would have the audacity — and musical geekery — to include in a collection of covers a few songs by their contemporaries, like Hoboken neo-psychedelic dream pop collective the Special Pillow and progressive country pop band Great Plains. There are also some reworked songs from the band's past albums ("All Your Secrets," "The Ballad of Red Buckets," "Deeper Into Movies"), and a couple of impressive originals ("Rickety," "Awhileaway"), too.
Perhaps best of all — and a testament to any band's talent — is that all of the songs, cover or otherwise, maintain a consistent vibe that's reminiscent of the Velvet Underground's softer acoustic numbers; if you didn't know better, you might think it was just another, slightly more subdued, Yo La Tengo album.
Stuff Like That There is heartfelt, playful and introspective. It'll make you want to take a drive in the country and think about where you could maybe find a copy of that Special Pillow record. (Matador)