Yo La Tengo—Fakebook
Bar None, 1990
Bar None, 1990
It's as hard for me to accept that this album is 17 years old as it will be for fans of 2006's I'm Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass to believe that it's a Yo La Tengo product. No electric geetar noise, no atmospheric organ drones, no thumped out repetitive bass lines, and no tracks more than four minutes long (3:33 to be accurate), Fakebook is 40 minutes worth of gentle, sing-along-worthy songs performed by people clearly more infatuated with the tunes than with themselves.
Fakebook was a pleasant surprise even back in 1990 when it was first released, but it was an easier fit in the Yo La Tengo canon because only three other sorta full length releases had preceded it [Ride the Tiger (1986), New Wave Hot Dogs (1987), and President Yo La Tengo (1989)], and most people outside of Jersey or far from the NYC/DC corridor didn't hear all of Tiger until Matador Records re-issued the first three LPs on CD in 1996. More to the point, most people's love affair with Yo La Tengo rested squarely on two songs that ended up on President Yo La Tengo, "Barnaby Hardly Working" and "Drug Test," both of which evidenced a feel for songcraft and structure that even today seem more than three years superior to anything on Tiger.
Still and all, what made Fakebook work so well in 1990 was the fact that people who listened to Yo La Tengo back then didn't actually think of Yo La Tengo as a band. We thought exclusively in terms of a young couple of whom we were sincerely fond, Yo La Tengo's core duo of Georgia [Hubley] and Ira [Kaplan]. Ira & Georgia were quietly anti-celebrity (they were from Hoboken, for chrissakes), and they invariably presented themselves in fanzine articles as fans and record collectors who were compelled to play because the music they enjoyed was so dang good they couldn't just sit there. Ira & Georgia had also played acoustic sets together prior to recording Fakebook, with Ira strumming and singing and Georgia brushing away at her drum kit and singing. So Fakebook also served double duty as a light-hearted way to showcase the chops they'd developed over the course of those intimate gigs.
I couldn't find any band-approved sound files of Fakebook tracks on the web, so in lieu of the music samples, here are the liner notes (unsigned but written mostly in first person plural) from the CD insert:
"What Can I Say" is from the CD reissue of Kick Me Hard by one of our favorite bands ever, NRBQ. "Yellow Sarong" is by The Scene is Now, from their first album, Burn All Your Records, on their label, Lost. A really great album, as are their other two, Total Jive and Tonight We Ride--you can never say enough about The Scene is Now. Cat Stevens wrote "Here Comes My Baby" and did a pretty good version of it, too (really), but we didn't hear it until recently. We learned it from the Tremoloes, who had a hit with it somewhere in the '60s. "Emulsified" was the handiwork of Rex Garvin and the Mighty Cravers, and we found it on the incredibly swell compilation At the Party, which no record collection should be without, Candy Records. It'd be difficult to wholeheartedly recommend the Escorts' From the Blue Angel reissue on Edsel, but equally hard to come down on an album with "One to Cry." "Griselda" was sung by Peter Stampfel [who sings and plays on "One to Cry"] on the Rounder album, Have Moicy!, a record only Stephan Wichnewski [a YLT alum from '88-'89] could dislike. "Speeding Motorcycle" is on Daniel Johnston's Yip Jump Music, pressed up by Homestead. "Andalucia" is on John Cale's Paris 1919 (we recorded "Hanky Panky Nohow" from the same LP for a Ruta 66 compilation, with Georgia singing, and maybe that'll be out before too long). "Oklahoma U.S.A." originated with Muswell Hillbillies by Ira's all-time faves, the Kinks. "Tried So Hard" can be found on the Flying Burrito Brothers' 3rd album, the first without Gram Parsons, no classic. Fairport Convention also did it on Heyday; and of course, Gene Clark did it too, but it slips my mind as to where. "You Tore Me Down" is from Shake Some Action by the Flamin' Groovies, and if it's on that CD thing that came out last year, al the more reason to pick one up. And these are our second cracks at "Did I Tell You" and "Barnaby," which can be found on New Wave Hot Dogs and President Yo La Tengo respsectively (as well as together on our de-lux CD)--and we use the word "found" primarily as a figure of speech. Dave's group, the Schramm's, with Al [Geller] on electric bass, just released their Okra LP, Walk to Delphi.
Click the artwork above by designer Mr. Asami of San-X to go to the band's homepage.
Watch an animated video by Scott Bateman for "Tighten Up" from Yo La Tengo is Murdering the Classics.