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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
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Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
Yo La Tengo
Prisoners Of Love
Matador Records

Rating: 9/10 ?

March 24, 2005
At some point in college, I had written a ten page paper on Yo La Tengo. Looking back now I have no idea how I filled up all those pages, but I remember the basic gist was thus: Yo La Tengo is the best band in the world. It's not just their ability to hit every corner of the palette of music from the past forty years, nor the startlingly consistent catalog of full length albums released over a long ass time, nor the effortlessness of the softs and the louds, nor their undying devotion to the New York Knicks and Mets. For me, it always started and ended with the married couple at the core of the band, Georgia Hubley and Ira Kaplan.

For me, there really isn't a more fascinating dynamic in music than two mates making tunes, especially when one is a recovered social retard. In the Wire magazine cover story that followed the release of the band's last full length, the sort of disappointing Summer Sun, Kaplan detailed the origins of his band: "I was so shy that it was impossible to do what I wanted to do, to play in a band. Then I met Georgia at a Feelies concert and she was a motivating factor in letting me feel that I could actually make music. I felt comfortable enough with her that I could reveal myself, and I think she did too. Now I could point to almost every record we've made and say what I thought we got a little braver about. To me the changes from record to record more reflect the courage to do this and the courage to do that."

With twenty years of existence under their belts, Yo La Tengo releases this triple-disc best-of set. There's three basic things that set this apart from most lame ass greatest hits: it's not sequenced chronologically, it strays from picking only the 'big' songs off the records, and the entire third disc is dedicated to rarities and related whatnots. The first two discs, sequenced by Hubley, jut seamlessly from era to era, and it is hardly surprising that the band's early, 60's influenced jangle pop sounds completely in place alongside their later noise stuff. One particularly lovely sequence on the first disc has the serious greatest-song-of-the-90's contender "Sugarcube" followed by one of the band's earlier anthems, 1989's "Barnaby, Hardly Working," which flows nicely into "Little Eyes," a song that, on Summer Sun, sounds like little more than Yo La covering Yo La. However, when laid against the rest of the band's catalog, the song takes on new life and new meaning. Some of the selections are kind of interesting (I would have put on "Saturday" or "Cherry Chapstick" over "Our Way to Fall" or "Tears Are in Your Eyes" when choosing All-Stars off of And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out), but for the most part, the tracklisting keeps it interesting, especially with 1993's single-only "Shaker" opening the disc.

The second disc starts with what I take to be the bands first single, "The River of Water," a surprisingly all-encompassing two and a half minute ditty replete with mid-song brass breakdown. You know how no matter how many records a band puts out, certain people will always remember that first 7" or EP as exponentially better than everything else the band did?  There's got to be some 40-somethings in New Jersey who are still loving that joint.  Like the first, the second disc hits all eras, including their not-too-long-ago cover of "Nuclear War." The set concludes with "By the Time It Gets Dark," really the only song that could be employed for such a task.

The limited edition third disc is where the goods lie for hardcore fans. The highlights are the alternate versions of better known songs, including a version of "Big Day Coming" that combines the tunefulness and the rockingoutedness of the two versions that appear on Painful, ending up somewhere in between. Acoustic versions of "Tom Courtenay" and "Decora" offer a good chance to re-examine tunes you loved years ago but sort of forgot about. The third disc also shows the band stretching out a bit, with tracks sprawling about at high minute marks, trademarks of the beloved Yo La live show.

Since this was carefully constructed by the band, and is not just a chronological lumping together of the band's singles,  Prisoners Of Love... serves as a more authentic primer to the band than most collections of this ilk would be. Yo La Tengo is probably going to end up being one of those bands that has influenced everyone, whether they know it or not. Some of the finest singular tunes of this little age in music came from these crazy Jews,  and for the uninformed, Matador has supplied a solid starting point.

Reviewed by Jeremy Keller
A staff writer for LAS, Jeremy Keller uses his uncanny ability to intellectualize sports for the greater good of mankind.

See other reviews by Jeremy Keller



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