Yo La Tengo – Stuff Like That There
Way way back in the 1980s – 1990, actually, but who’s keeping score? – indie shapeshifters Yo La Tengo released an album called Fakebook which was, as the name implies, a collection of covers and old Yo La Tengo songs that were reworked to fit alongside them. It was a high point in the band’s early catalog, and twenty-five years later they’ve returned to the concept for another go-around. Stuff Like That There reproduces the structure, putting covers alongside reworkings of old songs. Out of the nine featured covers, the only two that are likely to be named by the general populace is Hank William’s “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” and The Cure’s “Friday I’m In Love”. This time around, however, the vibe is considerably laid back, featuring gentle, acoustic versions that are suited for playing on the porch, or around a campfire under a stretched-out spray of stars. Everything here is very quiet but suffused with deep meaning courtesy of Georgia Hubley’s warm, expressive voice; like Low, they’re able to get a lot out of relatively little on Stuff Like That There. The album also marks the return of guitarist Dave Schramm, who was a fixture in early Yo La Tengo and played on Fakebook. Schramm takes over the leads, leaving longtime guitarist Ira Kaplan to take on a strictly rhythm role, and the effect is pronounced. Typically, a Yo La Tengo album would feature odd, angular guitar work courtesy of Kaplan; Schramm is a much gentler, more Jerry Garcia-influenced guitarist, and the leads he glides on here are much more suited to the material.
If you ever wanted a mostly-covers Yo La Tengo album where everything sounds like a bunch of people sitting around a campfire approximating the Dead, then Stuff Like That There is going to be right where you want it to be. Otherwise it’s just another addition into the lengthy Yo La Tengo catalog, and not a particularly essential one at that.