Sorry for the spoiler in the title, but Yo La Tengo’s temporary reinvention as a bunch of garage rockers from New London, Connecticut is pretty easy to unpick. The press release suggests that the fragrantly-named “Fuckbook” is the Condo Fucks’ sixth album (the previous five all appear to have been given Matador catalogue numbers).
So far, so meticulous. The subterfuge collapses, however, when they list the personnel. Ira Kaplan becomes Kid Condo, which is efficiently mysterious. But Georgia Hubley is renamed Georgia Condo, and James McNew appears to have taken a somewhat idiosyncratic approach to the scam by using the pseudonym of, well, James McNew.
It’s a Yo La Tengo record, then, but one that’s not much like the more reflective collections of recent years. Instead of a follow-up to “Straight Outta Connecticut” or “Condo Fucks City Rockers”, “Fuckbook”’s direct antecedent is the 1990 Yo La covers set, “Fakebook”. Where “Fakebook” was, if memory serves, genteel and mainly acoustic, however, “Fuckbook” is an enterprisingly tossed-off, scuzzy set.
Yo La have been playing shows where they take requests for any song annually for years, and “Fuckbook” seems to capture the rowdy, haphazard spontaneity of those sets. The material touches on familiar obsessions of these rock scholars: there’s plenty of Britbeat from The Kinks and The Troggs; The Flaming Groovies (“Dog Meat”); some US proto-punk from Electric Eels and Richard Hell and so on; the obligatory early Beach Boys nod (“Shut Down” and “Shut Down Part Two” actually, much in the tradition of “Little Honda”).
The sound, though, is wildly distorted and cranked up. The rawness of it all, the rehearsal space fidelity, the crackly intimacy of Kaplan’s voice, the biscuit tin rattle of Hubley’s drums and so on is so pronounced, it makes much of “Nuggets” sound polished. One of Yo La Tengo’s many charms has always been aclattery vivaciousness, but here they seem aligned more closely to a labelmate like Jay Reatard or something from the Goner label – super-snotty lo-fi.
Much fun, anyhow, not least when they rip all the glam out of Slade’s “Gudbuy T’Jane”. Most of all, it shows that a vast knowledge of rock history can sometimes be best expressed with love and energy, rather than with a forensic idea of respect. Also, they’re called Condo Fucks!