Yo La Tengo have long known the possibility and pleasure of the cover song, sneaking one or more onto every album they could and annually performing whichever tunes happen to be requested by listeners of New Jersey’s WFMU radio station. Two-thirds of their 1990 album, Fakebook, consisted of covers, and now the beloved Hoboken trio have succeeded it with the all-covers Fuckbook, released under the alter ego Condo Fucks.
Named after some faux LP sleeves in the liner notes of their classic album I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One, Condo Fucks are a chance for the long-running band to cut loose and make a record that doesn’t really sound like Yo La Tengo. There’s none of the usual stylistic range or musical depth here on Fuckbook; every song is a raw surge of garage-rock, thriving on volume and distortion.
This is also a casual list of influences, and it’s not the first time Yo La Tengo have covered the Beach Boys, Kinks and Flamin’ Groovies. The album kicks off with the primitive stomp and shout of the Small Faces’ “What’cha Gonna Do About It,” a suitable introduction to the treble-kicked release of energy that follows. It’s all a bit of a mess, which is exactly the point. Even a mellower tune such as the Kinks’ doleful “This Is Where I Belong” gets its vocals buried under an itchy, ramshackle arrangement.
Guitarist Ira Kaplan and bassist James McNew handle most of the singing, though the standout take on the Troggs’ “With a Girl Like You”—recently covered by TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek for Dark Was the Night—gives drummer Georgia Hubley a gorgeous chance at the mic. The whole thing’s an exercise, sure, but who wouldn’t want to hear these three pillage and plunder such choice oldies?