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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Yo La Tengo Won’t Compromise

The members of Yo La Tengo, from left, Ira Kaplan, James McNew and Georgia Hubley. (Carlie Armstrong)

The members of Yo La Tengo, from left, Ira Kaplan, James McNew and Georgia Hubley. (Carlie Armstrong)

During more than a quarter-century of making music, the Hoboken, N.J., indie band Yo La Tengo has drawn both critical acclaim and a devoted following.

However, they’ve never achieved widespread commercial success, something that doesn’t bother singer, guitarist and songwriter Ira Kaplan.

As he told Here & Now’s Robin Young, though the band considers its music something that can be enjoyed by audiences, “the idea of tailoring what we do to be sure that happens, that just feels and felt like a dead end… Right now we’re in control of what we do, but if you try to do something for someone else and they still don’t like it, then you’re stuck.”

Stream two tracks from Yo La Tengo’s new album “Fade”:

“Ohm” by Yo La Tengo

“Before We Run” by Yo La Tengo

Yo La Tengo has often been compared to the Velvet Underground, but Kaplan said he thinks the band has more in common with The Feelies and The Modern Lovers.

“In The Modern Lovers, I always loved the extreme direct honesty and communication in the lyrics,” Kaplan said. “Lyrically I don’t think we’ve been anywhere near as direct as Jonathan Richman, but I think emotionally we may have been. And The Feelies, watching them play live and just listening to their first record Crazy Rhythms so many hundreds of times, just the meticulous approach to putting a recorded piece of music together – or a live piece of music together – that was really kind of eye-opening to me, the importance that a well-placed tambourine hit could have… I think we’ve drawn on that many times over the years.”

Yo La Tengo releases its new album “Fade” on CD and vinyl next week.

“I think it does reflect who we are at specific time in our life,” Kaplan said. “But hopefully it’s something that anybody can relate to.”

Songs heard in this segment:

Yo La Tengo, “Paddle Forward”
Yo La Tengo, “Before We Run”
Yo La Tengo, “Is That Enough?”
Jonathan Richmond and the Modern Lovers, “She Cracked”
The Feelies, “Crazy Rhythm”
Yo La Tengo, “Ohm”
Yo La Tengo, “Cornelia and Jane”

Guest:

  • Ira Kaplan, Yo La Tengo singer, guitarist and songwriter. The band tweets @TheRealYLT.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Wahoo_wa

    I don’t think their music is “inaccessible” (what a pompous thing to say!).  It’s just plain awful!

    • Dirtyword

      That’s not accurate. 

      • Wahoo_wa

        OK…monumentally bad then.

        • http://baconfat.tumblr.com/ baconfat

          this band releases over a dozen albums in 27 years, garners reams of critical praise, sells out mid-size to large clubs on a consistent basis for the past 15+ years without repeating a single setlist, scores a number of well-received films, collaborates with the likes of ray davies and yoko ono, gets a book written about them, and manages to do it all on the back of “monumentally bad” music… gotcha. makes perfect sense.

          • Wahoo_wa

            Tons of people every year slow down or stop to see train and car wrecks….every time the wreck is different.  It’s still a wreck.

          • Wahoo_wa

            I’d also add that ke$ha packs stadiums with her concerts, sells tons of albums, has a much, much larger fan base…and yet her music is also phenomenally bad.

          • Zazoo_za

            foolproof argument!

    • alexMass

      To each his own… I think they’re great.   

  • tomiac

    I saw this band at the 80-35 fest in Des Moines 2 years ago. I had heard about the band but not heard the music. By far, the worst band of the whole festival and the worst band I ever saw, plain and simple. Stunningly bad.

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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