Yo La Tengo - Prisoners of Love


Why have I been so stupid?




I must apologise to Yo la Tengo, for my own laziness in having never bothered to listen to anything by them before this 3 cd retrospective came through the Incendiary shed door. You see, over the years, I've seen their name crop up in music mags and broadsheet review sections and have read the occasional review and then, well, pretty much ignored them. I've seen their name listed in various venue listings over the years and, well, pretty much ignored them. I'm pretty sure I've even been in the same venue as them on one occasion, but I was busy checking out some other band in another room. I have asked my friends what they think of them at various stages and the average response has been, "They're alright I suppose." Hardly an enthusiastic recommendation, I'm sure you'll agree. Well actually, seems as I'm apologizing here, a friend of mine named Vicky once tried to tell me they were the best thing since sliced bread, but everybody named Vicky is certifiably insane and shouldn't be trusted.


Well Vicky, I take it back. Perhaps you are the exception to the Vicky rule because, after spending some time with this 3cd collection (it's available as a standard 2cd collection for those who don't fancy coughing up for the bonus rarities disk) I have to say that I absolutely love these guys. Why have I been so stupid?


I think it was the name that put me off. None of my friends and trusted musical acquaintances have ever said anything enthusiastic about them and to be honest, when I saw the name it conjured up (and still does) the idea of some kind of World Music loving band that have an unsettling love of tribal rhythms and wobble boards. But no, these guys are reassuringly indie.


But what is indie? Well, people break it down in various ways and some people just like to throw any guitar based band in there because it's one of those labels that can be applied to anything. But for the sake of this article, I'd like to describe what I think makes an indie band. There are certain factors that you should look out for, certain signs and motifs that can help you spot an indie band in the racks of your high street retailer.


1)     Pretentious titles. – How did I miss this? Look at the title of this collection. The FULL title, that is : Yo La Tengo – Prisoners of Love – A smattering of scintillating senescent songs 1985-2003. If that's not pretentious I don't know what is? For starters, it actually has a subtitle and it's a subtitle that's almost impossible to say without wrapping your tongue in knots. Not only that but it manages to contain the words scintillating and senescent and you don't often use those in regular conversation do you? Indie points all round there!

2)     The just got out of bed look. – Again, look at this cover. They all look like they've just been dragged through a hedge backwards. Plus they all look like aged art student fops. Yo La Tengo are an indie band and no mistake.

3)    The music itself should contain one or more of the following traits. a) droning guitars b) wailing guitars or c) it should sound like Belle and Sebastian. This is the bit that shocked me most because within the first three songs of the 1st cd I'd heard droning guitars, wailing guitars and a song that sounded like Belle and Sebastian! I still had 2 and ¾ cds to go! Woohoo!


I was in love with them instantly. They sound like the Stooges, they sound like the Pixies, they sound like Belle and Sebastian, they sound like early Pavement. Hell they sound like every indie band known to man. Or, now here's a thought, maybe all those bands sound a little bit like Yo La Tengo? Now that would be something.


I was so genuinely surprised by this album that I was instantly pissed off with everyone I know that knew of them beforehand and didn't bother to tell me how good they really were. Nobody had said to me, "Yo La Tengo? They're fantastic! What do you mean you haven't got any of their stuff? We must get that sorted. Get yourself along to the record shop now. Use my bike if you want."  But never mind, I know about them now but please, if you're a fan of Yo La Tengo, tell people. They need to know.


Just tell them, like I'm telling you. Yo La Tengo? They're fantastic. Get yourself along to the record shop and buy a copy of their fabulous 3cd retrospective. It's brilliant. Hurry along now. Take my bike if you like.


You'll be doing them a favour.


Words : Damian Leslie