Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Don't Tell Anyone You Don't Own:
Yo La Tengo - Electr-O-Pura

(Matador, 1995)

"Pablo and Andrea" [mp3]

In honor of Yo La Tengo's upcoming Springfield show, I wanted to commemorate one of the band's best albums. Perhaps this is the "I heard it first, so I like it better" syndrome, but of the nine hundred YLT albums (ok, eleven plus five compilations), Electr-O-Pura has remained my all-time favorite.

When I was in college, it seemed some band called Yellow Tango was coming through Lawrence every other week. Sometimes it takes someone thrusting an album at me and saying, "Here, listen to this." That's what happened, and here I am now, bowing down to the critical darling and fan favorite known as, not Yellow Tango, but Yo La Tengo -- which means, if years of Spanish lessons can hold up here, "I have it." Boy, do they ever.

What's that, you say? You're into Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentine, The Velvet Underground, Stereolab, etc.? Well, then you simply must get Electr-O-Pura. Let me lavish some love on this album, track-by-track style.

1. "Decora" - MBV anyone? Seriously, Georgia's vocals are... sublime. The track... ethereal. The perfect opener.

2. "Flying Lessons (Hot Chicken #1)" - This is a staple on Nicole mixes. The intensity of this song is simply unmatched, and proves an astonishing follow-up to the breezy opener. If you like ass-kicking dissonant guitar solos that joyously assault your ear drums (and who doesn't?), this song is it.

3. "The Hour Grows Late" - The pace slows again for a dreamy acoustic number. I can remember first hearing this track and thinking, "This guy sounds kinda like Tom Petty." Now I want to slap myself for making such an analogy. When Ira sings, "In this thriftstore corner of the world," I feel all cozy inside.

4. "Tom Courtney" - An amazing pop song, and one of my favorite tracks in the band's catalog. I DARE you not to sing along. I've still yet to hear a faithful live version of the song; fingers crossed for this weekend.

5. "False Ending" - Chaotic and freewheeling, this :56 track gives us a taste of the pandemonium to come on Track 8. That's right, I said pandemonium.

6. "Pablo and Andrea" - One of RL's favorite fights revolves around this song. In drunken sparrings I've argued that one hokey line ruins the song for me, but in truth it would be impossible to mar its beauty. The guitar solo is chillingly, achingly, gut-wrenchingly perfect. If you like mellow MBV, download this track. NOW. I'll make it easy for you.

7. "Paul is Dead" - Another singalong favorite. The harmonies between Ira and Georgia are phenomenal. This track is a bit of a builder, preparing us for its markedly noisier successor.

8. "False Alarm" - I used to hate this song, preferring to stick with the "pretty" tracks. Now I happily dive into the frenzy.

9. "The Ballad of Red Buckets" - Hazy and meandering. When I hear this know I see a prelude to And Then Everything Turned Itself Inside Out or Summer Sun.

10. "Don't Say a Word (Hot Chicken #2)" - The haziness continues with a Georgia-led ballad. Probably my least favorite on the album, though it's not a bad song by any means. Just makes me a little sleepy...

11. "(Straight Down) To the Bitter End"
- Wake up! Yes, you, getting a nap in during the last track! It's time to rock!

12. "My Heart's Reflection"
- Uh oh, a little more sleepy. Again, not a bad song. In fact, it's quite lovely. I just want us to get to "Blue Line Swinger" already.

13. "Attack on Love" - A crazy primer for the album's phenomenal closer. This one seems like practice for their 1996 cameo as The Velvet Underground in I Shot Andy Warhol.

14. "Blue Line Swinger" - This one has to be at the top of the "I WANT TO HEAR THIS LIVE" wishlist for the RL staff. This track features eight minutes of orgiastic buildup with a caterwauling payoff that, you know, really pays off. Wow.

Writing about classic albums is a lot of pressure. I only hope I've done the album justice. Or at the very least, that someone person reading this will get their hands on this fantastic album. Then you too can say, "Yo la tengo!"

1 comment:

SonicRyan said...

You definitely nailed it. I remember telling a friend not long after I bought this album, "I think I just bought my new favorite album." Though I may have jumped the gun a tad bit, I don't think I was necessarily too far off either.