Recalling their 1990 breakthrough Fakebook, Yo La Tengo have returned with a set of covers, re-workings and a few new songs performed as a country folk quartet with original guitarist Dave Schramm.
It’s the exact type of album the average 30-year-old band should make. But Yo La Tengo are far better than the average band, and they should be aiming higher.
It’s no surprise, then, that the best songs here are Yo La Tengo’s own. ‘Rickety’ is an instant classic, featuring the band’s signature hushed melodies and a harmonised sigh that will make every meaningful moment in your life flash before you all at once. The dreamy ‘Awhileaway’ wouldn’t be out of place on And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out. The covers, although a little safe, are all presented with care, and betray a love of music history – no secret when it comes to Yo La Tengo. In amongst covers of The Cure, Hank Williams, Great Plains and others, the best one here is the uptempo doo-wop of ‘Somebody’s In Love’, continuing the band’s obsession with Sun Ra.
In 2015, delivering a sequel to the 25-year-old Fakebook seems like a missed opportunity. It’s beautiful, but it’s Yo La Tengo – of course it’s beautiful.