When I watched the music video, however, I was fucking flabbergasted. It’s an epic story about love destroying the earth, as violent and jarring as it is hypnotic. Coming from this 30 year old band, it’s hilarious and.. surprising.
We begin with drummer Georgia Hubley walking around a neighborhood, plucking brightly colored clay figurines off trees and trash bins. It’s the picture of whimsy, but it’s about to get weird.
So Georgia is still walking and finding treasures when people around her are suddenly obliterated. One by one, they’re struck and explode in a red mist. It’s a massive crisis, and even the band isn’t immune: bassist James McNew gets blasted to smithereens! As guitarist Ira Kaplan stands in disbelief, it’s clear that the band is using the video to add their signature sense of mischief to an otherwise straightforward cover of a pretty song. This is an unabashed burst of chaotic fun, a kind of 90s disaster movie in miniature, flipping the script on the song’s rapturous belief in love. When the threat is revealed, you’ll know exactly what I mean.
For sharp-eyed fans of the band, there’s a sequence in the middle featuring direct references to classic Yo La Tengo album and song titles from the past few decades. It comes like a friendly wink through the mounting pandemonium.
I couldn’t stop smiling.
As for the album, it’s called Stuff Like That There and it’s a sort of sequel to the band’s 1990 gem Fakebook. Like the earlier album, it’s a covers collection, covering works by artists both willfully obscure and wildly popular, plus a few from the band’s own back catalog. It’s an excuse for the trio to truly let their hair down and put their considerable talents to work on some relatively simple tunes with timeless appeal.
For a longtime fan of the group, whose discography stretches back to 1985, it’s a special treat to hear fresh arrangements and renditions of old favorites. In the same way an acoustic cover like this highlights novel aspects of the synth-laden original song, Yo La Tengo loves tweaking their own mythology. While I’m not the biggest fan of covers as a general concept, I always appreciate ones that bring fresh context and personality to a well known tune. It’s no wonder that one of my lifelong favorite bands ever has a load of expert covers under their belt.
These guys have been there for every point of my 20s and onward, and I don’t see that changing in the future. I’m an unabashed, embarrassingly earnest fan. I’ve traveled to rural colleges to see them. I even had them played at my mom’s funeral. So when they deliver a moment of pure levity like this, it feels like a warm embrace from the past, pop nostalgia made deeply personal.