According to Yo La Tengo’s official website, they hope their new album will be out in the fall. They then request support for their “friends,” Condo Fucks, and their hit debut, Fuckbook, a disjointed collection of noisy, lo-fi, and scrappily-composed covers. It doesn’t take a careful ear to quickly realize that these friends are in reality, Yo La Tengo, in traditional, mischievous disguise.
Truth be told, Fuckbook is hardly an essential addition to any band’s catalog. These sparse, unfastened and more importantly, exuberant covers are all flash and no substance. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t specially well done and loads of fun, either! The best stuff is on songs like The Troggs’ “With a Girl Like You,” complete with its switchblade guitar and buried vocals. The New Jersey trio sing away in roundabout style and even when the music cuts out to reveal Georgia Hubley’s sweet voice, it’s neither direct nor immediate, but fittingly lazy.
“Dog Meat” is well-rounded with chugging bass and pounding drums, all behind the guitar’s menacing melody. And something frenetic like “Shut Down” and “Shut Down Part 2” are especially lighthearted selections. The latter is an instrumentally blissful song; upbeat and energetic, it’s like surf music with much heavier reverb and for the most part, it’s killer. There’s even a song or two that sound like something the trio would create on their own, like “This is Where I Belong”. Melodic, sincere, laid-back; they’re Yo La Tengo’s trademarks and they are at the core of every single cover.
The album flies by with eleven songs and thirty-five minutes of densely layered music. Recorded in a live setting with as minimal mixing and editing as possible, this allows the band to play off each other’s energy. “The Kid with the Replaceable Head” showcases the band singing with vivid joy and the surrounding music clashes and crashes around them with corresponding happiness. Trying out styles like this is a challenge because it can easily backfire, but for Condo Fucks it’s a glowing success; a testament to the band’s impressive musicianship!
The swagger and boldness of “Gudbuy T’Jane” sounds like something The Rolling Stones may have done when they were just starting out. And more than likely, if you played this for someone thirty years from now, odds are they would have an arduous task even placing it in the correct decade. No, it’s not polished and no, it’s not even really finished but what it lacks in clarity, it more than makes up in style, realness and downright confidence. Punk music was always an exercise in futility and these guys (and gal) have proven their worth, yet again.
But if the proper album is on its way, then this is just a new side to the beloved band. It’s not meant to be taken seriously and if you find yourself questioning its significance, then you are barking up the wrong tree. The mistakes are left in, the band counts off every song (even starting at nine on the aforementioned “Shut Down Part 2”), and they even decided to start over a few times without starting a new cut. Much like Yo La Tengo’s Fakebook, this is just a teaser to a world of new opportunities. And the winner is still the listener because with an album filled with slacker, idiosyncratic and mostly silly covers, it’s a terrific listen.
“What’cha Gonna Do About It” by Condo Fucks