Yo La Tengo

The 42 songs on this three-CD Yo La Tengo career retrospective aren't sequenced chronologically, but it wouldn't much matter if they were. The two-decade tale of Hoboken, New Jersey's finest indie rock band resists a linear celebration; rather than an evolutionary journey, it's one of vast eclecticism and experimentation, wherein the husband-and-wife core of guitarist Ira Kaplan and drummer George Hubley, along with their various cohorts (bassist James McNew stabilized the trio in 1991), has donned, sloughed and revisited all sorts of musical styles over the years, never settling on just one, ever circling. And so the first two discs (a compilation of previously released material) weave strangely and wonderfully through Sonic Youth-y freakout skronk, densely layered shoegazer bliss, Velvets-and-krautrock-inspired drone-rock, Brit Invasion garage groovin', loping country jangle, Moog-flavored head trips and skewed pop of the dream, power and acoustic varieties. Fun as that is, it's the 16-track, 74-minute third disc of outtakes and rarities that makes this collection a must-have, particularly the punky crash of "Bad Politics" (YLT's 1994 cover of the Dead C song), a tender 1997 run-through of "Decora" on KCRW and a transcendent nine-minute remix of "Autumn Sweater" by My Bloody Valentine's Kevin Shields.
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Michael Alan Goldberg