Yo La and I go back 20 years now (Fakebook was one of the first CDs I ever purchased) and it’s not hard to believe what these guys have done over the years, but it is hard to believe that they are still around doing it. Perhaps we’ve been overly effusive in our praise for Hoboken’s Finest, but when seeing them open for Wilco this summer, it was hard not to think of these guys as some sort of Godfathers of modern “indie” rock. Part of that has to do with the fact that their recordings are so eclectic, from indie pop to noise rock to everything in between. Yo La seems at once limited by Ira and Georgia’s soft voices and emboldened by the idea that they can play any style of music.
In a different way, cult favorites like Ween are doing similar genre-hopping exercises, but what makes Yo La so damn awesome is that none of it is done with without sincerity. It’s trite to say these guys are the Velvet Underground redux, but it’s obviously an apt comparison simply because they strike that balance between noise and pop, challenging and accessible, so well. At some point, you’re just preaching to converted with all this Yo La talk, but it’s hard to understate how far-reaching this band’s influence really is.
With all of that having been said, how do you choose just one Yo La Tengo song? It’s obviously not easy, but “Beanbag Chair” stands out to me as a perfect, peppy Yo La pop song. If I were to go in a different direction, it would have to be “The Story of Yo La Tengo”, a mind-exploding piece of noise rock that never loses track of the melody.