This article was originally published in 2013 and has been updated.
Welcome to Dissected, where we disassemble a band’s catalog, a director’s filmography, or some other critical pop-culture collection in the abstract. It’s exact science by way of a few beers. This time, we sort through the best and worst of Hoboken, New Jersey’s trio of Ira Kaplan, Georgia Hubley, and James McNew.
On April 30, 1982, Lester Bangs overdosed and died, and took the ‘70s with him. The next day, in Hoboken, New Jersey, an obscure music writer named Ira Kaplan and a former child voiceover actress named Georgia Hubley performed together before an audience for the first time. Eventually, the pair became a band. They adopted a name after the Spanish phrase for “I have it.” Mets fans might recognize as the phrase outfielder Richie Ashburn learned to yell so as not to collide with teammate Elio Chacon when they chased a fly ball: “Yo La Tengo.”
Could Kaplan and Hubley have known that very night, on the first day of May, a new musical paradigm was percolating? That a major shift was under way? Would they have cared? In the ‘70s, rock bands often approached music as Miniature Machiavelli’s usurping each other one power chord at a time. This tradition would inspire the hedonistic styles of ‘80s and ‘90s metal bands; the backlash of the chord brandishing, is where indie rock began.
Basically every one of the above details, as with most other things Yo La Tengo would come to be known for, contradicted everything everyone assumed stood for the Great American Rock Band. Yo La Tengo had no solitary identity. They dressed like carpenters and espoused healthy lifestyles. Their song titles smirked at society and their music could move tectonic plates, or it could lull an earthquake depending on their mood. Maybe they were just a little bit selfish.
We’re celebrating these unlikely veterans with our latest album ranking. We hope that you enjoy it.