Yo La Tengo to bring its ‘heart’ to NoHo

By Mark Schiffer


This Wednesday, Hoboken-based indie rock trio Yo La Tengo will bring their warm organ tones and squalling waves of Sonic Youth-influenced feedback to the Academy of Music. Without question, it will be a show well worth attending due to their normally lengthy and engaging performances. Fellow indie rockers The Labor Pool will support.

Although Yo La Tengo have amassed quite the discography since their formation over 25 years ago, arguably their greatest success occurred with their 1997 release “I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One.” The incredibly diverse album contains everything from the shoegaze-y Beach Boys cover “Little Honda,” the 10-minute krautrock exploration of “Spec Bebop,” to the Neil Young-esque folk experiment “Stockholm Syndrome.” It also sports their biggest hit to date, the organ and drum-based “Autumn Sweater,” which garnered considerable attention as a college rock hit.

With such classic albums as the quasi-ambient “And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out” and the early ‘90s shoegaze of “Painful,” fans already have much to love about this band. But Yo La Tengo doesn’t stop with releasing wonderful music. In fact, this band has gone above and beyond what many bands would refer to as their “call of duty,” recording original soundtracks for the films of Jean Painleve such as the soundtrack “The Sounds of the Sounds of Science,” as well as, slacker coming-of-age comedies like “Adventureland,” and indie spiritual explorations of masculinity in the wilderness within “Old Joy.” This original content ranks, for the most part, with the best of their studio albums. It can be found collected on the respective soundtracks of the first two films, and the album “They Shoot, We Score” for “Old Joy.”

In addition, the band’s live shows, which frequently exceed two and a half hours in length, tend to be filled with fan favorites and covers ranging from Sun Ra’s “Nuclear War” – which they actually have released in four different EP format versions – to Big Star’s “Thirteen.” Covers became such an overwhelmingly popular part of Yo La Tengo’s live sets that they began playing all-request shows on WFMU every year. Highlights of these performances are collected on 2006’s “Yo La Tengo is Murdering the Classics.” Although the results range from very good to quite awful – the band is learning and playing the songs immediately after they are requested – the rambunctious charm and joy the trio gives off, for example, in their cover of Billy Joel’s “You May Be Right” is a truly unique aspect that only can be found in the music of Yo La Tengo.

One of the band’s more eccentric decisions occurred relatively recently, when they decided to make every live show they did for the next year begin with a set of songs that would be decided at random by spinning a specially designed categorical wheel. The options included “Songs Beginning With S,” “The Name Game” – which led to the set consisting of songs with names in their title, and “Sitcom Theater” – where the band would act out an episode of a classic television show.

Whether this Wednesday has the band acting out your favorite episode of “Judge Judy” or not, it will doubtlessly be a show well worth attending. With a lengthy discography of classic songs to choose from, an abundance of crowd-pleasing covers and joyfully energetic and pulsating jams, Yo La Tengo puts on a show designed to please. Ticket prices are $22 in advance; $25 at the door. Showtime will be 8 p.m., with doors opening at 7 p.m. Tickets will go fast, so showing up early is advised, as this is definitely not a show to miss.

Mark Schiffer can be reached at [email protected]