April 10, 2003

Don’t think for a minute we wouldn’t prefer to keep the news aspect of these updates heavily in quotes. It could be petty bickering with email correspondents or fake song titles from albums in progress–as long as we’re keeping you uninformed in the guise of doing the exact opposite, we’re satisfied. But sometimes that’s just impossible. Now is one of those times. What a week-plus it’s been.

First off, both Summer Sun and A Grown-Ass Man have been released, and we’re thrilled to announce that everybody who’s heard them LOVES them. Really–we never expected such unanimity, and we’re truly humbled by your appreciation.

We launched Summer Sun the only way (in retrospect) possible: with a beach-themed record-release party at NYC’s Other Music while the city streets were covered with inches of slushy gook too unpleasant to even term snow. Matador staffers handed out free beer (but only to those with two pieces of photo id). We took turns dj’ing, under the protective cover of brave Other Music employees while they shielded our heads and records from flying promotional beach balls. Georgia played "Teenage Riot" by Portuguese Joe. James played "Girl/Boy" by Aphex Twin. Ira played Richie Van’s cover of "Joy to the World." Then we went home.

A weekend earlier, by overwhelming demand, New York’s beloved noisemakers Salmon Skin reunited for a farewell performance at the brand new Sin-é, to wish drummer Dan Brown a safe relocation to Los Angeles. Founding members Jeff Cashvan and Steve Thornton were resplendent in wedding dress and electric suit respectively. Auxiliary guitarist Georgia Hubley was inaudible, causing particular disappointment to the gearheads in the audience (i.e. all of us) who were dying to find out how her guitar for the evening’s built-in effects worked. In a stunning development, the group actually managed to complete their set without being forcibly ejected from the stage or banned from future appearances, perhaps a first for the combo (Mr. Cashvan’s firecracker outburst apparently was deemed too little, too late). They will be missed.

The following evening, Hubley was back in the Ludlow groove, this time with her Yo La Tengo bandmates in tow. We made an appearance at Tinkle, the criminally underpublicized weekly comedy show hosted by Todd Barry, Jon Benjamin and David Cross. After a huge build-up that promised the premiere of a theme song we had written expressly for Tinkle, we came on stage and played "Tequila," to the comic consternation of our hosts. We left the stage, proverbial tails between our literal legs, only to return at the end of the night with a triumphant offering of "Batman (Tinkle)." Obviously, you had to be there. And if you’ve ever tried to get into Tinkle before, you know that that was impossible.

Are we really saving the best for last? Yes. Just hours ago, we convened at a Brooklyn recording studio to record the songs "Hedwig’s Lament" and "Exquisite Corpse" for a Hedwig and the Angry Inch tribute record that will come out later this year on Off, and benefit the Harvey Milk School. Sitting in with the group, on lead vocals, was none other than Yoko Ono. We were there and we still don’t believe it. In between takes, Yoko regaled us with anecdotes about Elephant’s Memory and David Peel. (Did you know that Peel actually loathed marijuana? True story.)

Next stop: Columbus, Ohio.

And we’re on our way.

March 25, 2003

It seems odd to be writing any kind of What’s New with Yo La Tengo update right now, but then again if the afternoon edition of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire is back on the air (and it was, last time I looked) . . . I don’t know how to end that sentence.

Are you reading this from anywhere near New York City? We’re going to have a little midnight madness record release party at Other Music. It’ll start around 11 pm on April 7. We’ll post the details as soon as it’s all set.

We got back from our brief 4-show tour. It seemed to go pretty well, although once again P.T. Barnum was proved correct–You can’t please all of the people all of the time. An email correspondent writes:

"Yo La Tengo started quietly, letting us know that they had a new album coming out in days, thus they would be playing a lot of songs we would not know. That in itself acceptable, yet the tone in voice was one of resignation to being stuck on a stage doing something apparently unloved. The band plodded through song after song as if stamping and filing at the unfulfilling desk job in the nondescript cubicle."

Is that what it seemed like? I can say that’s 100% inaccurate in terms of discerning our state of mind. We must have been playing pretty badly to give that impression. But there’s more:

"Somewhere along the way, the Glands were thanked for playing the opening slot. A generous yet standard gesture from the nationally renowned headliners. Athens was then cited as a ‘very important city‘ for live music. Thank you, Yo La Tengo, for the respect this city deserves. What followed, though, was reprehensible; Yo La Tengo let it be known that it was nice to finally see a good band come out of Athens. I couldn’t believe what I had heard. Many of the people around me at the show were local musicians. Many of the bands they play in I see and enjoy regularly. They may not (yet or ever) have national recognition, they may not (yet or ever) have critical acclaim, they may not (yet or ever) appeal to Yo La Tengo, but to single handedly dismiss them was the ultimate in disrespect."

Oh my god. You know, it’s a rock cliché to get so burned out from touring that you forget what day it is and what city you’re in. All I can say in my defense is that I was clearly so fried from touring that I forgot all about R.E.M. and the B-52’s and Pylon and the Method Actors and Love Tractor and Neutral Milk Hotel and Vic Chestnutt and the Bruces and . . .

"I watched as the crowd slowly thinned. Was this comment the cause? I believe, I hope, so."

Could be. Or it could be that in our bored, apathetic way we played for almost two hours, right through last call.

"I stayed a little longer, hoping that the night would be saved in some way. It was not. When I finally left after about twenty minutes of endless indie-rock jamming, I felt that I had wasted twenty-eight dollars of my hard earned money."

Don’t most people who come to see us know to expect at least twenty minutes of endless indie-rock jamming? And if it’s "about twenty minutes" can it really be termed "endless"?

"Worse, I felt that I had wasted a few hours of my precious time, time that would have been much better spent lying on the couch watching network sitcom reruns."

That is precious time.

"What will I do now? I will not buy the new Yo La Tengo disc. I will not buy older Yo La Tengo discs that I do not already own. I will not see another Yo La Tengo show. I will buy CDs and see shows of the great new Athens bands who enjoy what they are doing and appreciate the people that come out to see them. I will buy CDs and see shows of touring acts whose rock star posturing consists of ‘Are you ready to rock, Athens, GA?’ and ‘Thank you, we love you, good night,’ instead of jaded rock ‘stars’ who could appear to care less about their audience."

Thank you, we love you, good night.

Finally, in our photo gallery, a few of the singers on "Nuclear War" were caught on film at last Saturday’s antiwar march in New York City. That’s Leila Rosenthal on the left with her American flag/peace combo; Isaac Hubley’s in the foreground, his Bush Is a Bum sign didn’t make the photo; behind him; sneaking her arm into the shot is Hillary Hubley, you can see some of her Drop Bush, Not Bombs sign; and on the right, holding his Stop Operation American Empire sign high is Max Rosenthal.

March 13, 2003

Hey everybody,

I’m typing from the spacious dressing room at the Variety Playhouse in Atlanta, GA. A framed Jacob Lawrence poster is on the wall, and there are 3 coat hangers but no coats–it’s 70°. We’re making our way to the South by Southwest convention the long way, taking a whole bunch of our new songs to the people, at least the people in Chapel Hill, Athens, and tonight Atlanta. It’s been a while since we’ve toured, so naturally we’re taking things slowly at first: here it is our fourth day out and we’ve still yet to eat barbecue more than once in a day.

The Glands have played all three shows with us. They’re great. If I can be allowed some constructive criticism, however, I think it’s somewhat impolite to play an instrumental snippet from the Four Seasons’ "Oh What a Night" at soundcheck and then not do the whole song during your set. In Chapel Hill, Chris "Summer Sun" Stamey performed too, and when he opened with "Something Came Over Me," I got goosebumps.

We want to let you know or remind you that we’ll be on WFMU on Saturday night, helping out during their fundraising marathon. You can listen on wfmu.org and if you pledge money to the station, you get to make a request. And we’ll try to play it. Sure it’s humiliating, but it’s for a great cause. This year, due to our travel schedule back from Austin, we won’t be on at our normal time of 5-7 pm (now once again manned by "The Great" Gaylord Fields). Instead, we’ll hit at 9 pm, and carry on till midnight, with your host Tamar (Gaylord will co-host) (that’s the Eastern time zone). Hope you can tune in.

Georgia did her Disastodrome bit two weeks ago. This reporter thought it was amazing. George Wendt, Van Dyke Parks, and Georgia — I know, what took so long?

That’s about it. We’re going to see if we can’t provide these "news" reports every week. Summer Sun comes out on April 8.


January 18, 2003


Hi everybody. We’re proud to announce our new album, Summer Sun, is all done, and will be made available for release by the good people at Matador April 8. It’s got 13 songs on it, including a few we did live over Hanukkah, a cover of Big Star’s "Take Care," surprising cover artwork, and appearances by a few special guests you’ll be familiar with if you’ve seen us these last few years (hint: it’s not Ronnie Spector or Todd Barry).

And, as a special treat for those of you with computers, we have posted a sneak preview of Summer Sun. The song is called "Don’t Have to Be So Sad" (track 9 on the forthcoming cd, side 3 cut 3 on the vinyl). Hope you like it.

Dying to know James’ top 10 list of stuff from 2002? Of course you are. Check out the news section at matadorrecords.com, or le section nouveau a la www.matadoreurope.com.

We will also be contributing a track ("Magnet") to a forthcoming tribute compilation, devoted to one of our favorite bands in the world, NRBQ. If you were awake early enough, you may have seen A&E’s recent special on them, featuring many of the other mega-celebrity acts from the tribute record. Why weren’t we on it? Fucking James Lipton. The album lineup also includes Los Lobos, R.E.M.’s Mike Mills, Bonnie Raitt, and (current Will Rigby vocalist) Steve Earle.

Also recently completed after 4 years of slothlike toil is A Grown-Ass Man, the new album by Dump. This product is on the Shrimper records hotlist for spring, right around the time the surging Knicks rocket triumphantly into the postseason.

Everybody watched "Man Versus Beast," right?


December 18, 2002

Hanukkah’s come and gone and we want to thank everyone who came to the shows and who played at the shows and who helped with the shows. Boy, are our arms tired. We’ll be posting a bunch of photos in the near future, but in the meantime, here’s what happened:

  • Fri. Nov. 29: benefiting Social Tees Animal Rescue and the Dolphin Project
    Janeane Garofalo, David Grubbs. David joined us for four songs during our set. Ronnie Spector sang "Here Today Gone Tomorrow" and "Baby I Love You" with us during the encore.
  • Sat. Nov. 30: benefiting Arts for Art
    Todd Barry, Other Dimensions in Music. (Daniel Carter was replaced for this night by Sabir Mateen). Sabir Mateen, Roy Campbell Jr., and William Parker sat in for most of our set. During the encore, Todd Barry played drums on "Like a Rolling Stone" and John Cameron Mitchell sang "Head Held High" and "Holly Holy."
  • Sun. Dec. 1: benefiting the Hoboken Shelter
    Fred Armisen, the Fleshtones. Peter Zaremba sang two songs with us during our set. Fred Armisen (as Ferecito) joined us during "Nuclear War." Ray Davies sang "Animal Farm," "This Is Where I Belong" and "Till the End of the Day" with us for the encore.
  • Mon. Dec 2: benefiting the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University
    Girl’s Guitar Club of Greater Los Angeles, Sun Ra Arkestra under the direction of Marshall Allen. Some of the Arkestra sang on "Nuclear War." The Girl’s Guitar Club sang "This Ain’t the Summer of Love" and "Walk Like an Egyptian" with us during the encore.
  • Tues. Dec. 3: benefiting Global Kids
    David Cross, Ladybug Transistor. David Byrne joined us for an encore of "Ready for This World" (a new song of his), "Tears Are in Your Eyes," Lambchop’s "The Man Who Loved Beer," Richard Hell’s "Love Comes in Spurts" and "Pulled Up."
  • Wed. Dec 4: benefiting Sanctuary for Families
    Sarah Silverman, Virginia Dare. Mary and Brad from Virginia Dare played "I Threw It All Away" with us.
  • Thurs. Dec. 5: benefiting WFMU, Anthology Film Archives, and Film Forum
    Karen Kilgariff, Sue Garner. Dave Schramm sat in with us during our set. We all played with Sue on Yoko Ono’s "We’re All Water." Sue and Ted Reichman joined us during the encore for Randy Newman’s "Political Science," then Rick Brown came up too and sang the Art Attacks’ "Neutron Bomb." Then WFMU’s Gaylord Fields and Brian Turner, and Peter Criss (or was it Todd Barry) helped us play "Calling Dr. Love" and "Strutter."
  • Fri. Dec. 6: benefiting the Highlands Coalition
    Sountrackapella, Portastatic. Georgia and Ira played on some Portastatic numbers. Mac played the whole show with us. Matthew McCaughan added bongos during the encore.

October 13, 2002

Hello from Nashville! We’re about halfway through recording our new album. Check out the photos of scenes from our action-packed sessions. We are once again aided by tall producer Roger Moutenot, and working at the Alex The Great. It’s nice to be back, actually. The weather has been nice, dear friends are taking good care of us, and it seems like all our favorite restaurants are still open.

Our Nuclear War EP will be released on November 19th, on the Matador label. You heard it here first, or possibly second.

We are very happy to announce that we will be playing all 8 nights of Hanukkah again this year, at Maxwell’s in Hoboken, NJ. Last year was the first time we did this, and it went so well we decided to do it again. The 2001 shows each featured a special opening act (Yung Wu, Lambchop, +/-, Antietam, Hypnolovewheel, Zusaan Kali Fasteau, Annie Hayden, Consonant), a special comedy act (David Greenberger, Todd Barry, Janeane Garofalo, David Cross, Jon Benjamin, Jon Glaser, The Upright Citizens Brigade, Penn Jillette w/ Gilbert Gottfried and Paul Provenza), and special guests sitting in with us during our sets (Terry Adams from NRBQ played our whole set with us opening night, Jon Spencer played guitar & sang with us for our whole set closing night; in between, Kurt Wagner sang "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You" and "Jeepster" by two of the many great Jewish songwriters we spotlighted, and Todd Barry rocked the house on drums, to name but a few). We calculate that we played close to 900 different songs over the course of those gigs. All the proceeds from each show went to a different charity, as did the money from the 2 special t-shirt designs (by Steven Hunking of Hypnolovewheel) we had made for the occasion.

This year we will be including a brand new 3-song Christmas CDEP in the ticket price. That’s right, Christmas. Where are the good Hanukkah songs? For crying out loud. Anyways, we’ll be at Maxwell’s from Friday, November 29-Saturday, December 6. Tickets are officially on sale as of now (stay tuned for the full schedule of charities, opening acts, comics, and special guests, to be updated as soon as we know, ourselves). Maxwell’s only holds about 200 people, so act fast. We hope to see you there. (Tickets are on sale at Other Music in NYC, Tunes in Hoboken, at Ticketmaster elsewhere, and if you’re from overseas, but planning on Hanukkahing in these parts, we recommend contacting Maxwell’s at www.maxwellsnj.com.)

You people seriously overestimate the number of times James goes to the movies. He saw two movies this summer, "Men In Black 2" and "24 Hour Party People." Nobody guessed he only saw 2 movies, but only one person correctly included these two titles in their lists of way too many ("My Big Fat Greek Wedding"? Come on, people), and that lucky winner, Ms. Janice Headley of Seattle, will be contacted shortly, once travel arrangements are sorted out. That’s right, James will be coming to your house. Hope you have cable.

Back to work,

Over the years, there have been occasional questions about Ira’s pre-Yo La Tengo days as a journalist. With that in mind, we offer an example from 1985 of his writing:


To the Sports Editor:

Gary Savnyu not only finds nothing wrong with the designated hitter, but suggests that it would be in baseball’s best interests to adopt a system of separate offensive and defensive platoons (”Mailbox: Pros and Cons on Rule Changes,” The New York Times, March 31). The only flaw I can find with his plan is that it’s not carried to its logical conclusion. If baseball is to use football as a model, why not also incorporate free substitution?

I say, let the team at bat send up their most selective hitter, their keenest judge of the strike zone, any time they want. He’ll try to force the pitcher to fall behind on the count, at which point he’ll be quickly replaced by a power hitter particularly adept at handling the fastball called for in this situation. Should the slugger reach two strikes, he’ll return to the bench in favor of a contact specialist, who’ll settle for putting the ball in play. Designated runners will naturally take over whenever a hitter reaches base.

Needless to say, this will eliminate the necessity of a batting order. And just as some football coaches rely on a durable running back to carry the ball 30 times a game, so too will a shrewd manager be able to send his best hitters to the plate over and over again, resting them perhaps after an especially grueling sprint along the base paths.

Take it away, Commissioner Ueberroth!

Hoboken, N.J.

(April 7, 1985, Sunday, Late City Final Edition Section 5; Page 2, Column 1)