Does anybody still listen to Paul McCartney? Perhaps you do, and have followed his every move up to the counter of your local Starbucks; or maybe your knowledge of Sir Paul exists only until the end of the Beatles. Either way, McCartney had an amazing run through the 1970’s, dropping the incredible Los Angeles-tipped Ram with his wife Linda, continually hitting the top of the charts with Wings, and continuing to wistfully delve into and out of rock legend under his own name. But before he released Ram and joined up with Wings, McCartney decided to record an entirely instrumental version of Ram, oddly called Thrillington, and released under the name Percy “Thrills” Thrillington. Why? Who knows, the album didn’t come out officially until 1977, with no mention of McCartney’s involvement anywhere to be found–in the liner notes, packaging, nothing. In fact, it wasn’t until 1989 that McCartney even came forward that, in fact, the album was his. Just another footnote in rock-n-roll history. But this post isn’t about Paul McCartney, or Percy Thrillington for that matter.
No, this is about the Condo Fucks. Who are the Condo Fucks, you might ask? Well, they’ve only released 16 albums since 1984, and have been one of the most consistent bands on the indie circuit since their creation. Still nothing? Well, I guess the gig is up. Indie rock stalwarts Yo La Tengo decided to throw together some new recording equipment and smash together an album of covers by some of the finest garage bands in music history: electric eels, the Beach Boys, and Young Rascals. Their label, Matador, decided to have a little fun with its release and created an elaborate backstory to the rise and fall of the Condo Fucks legend. In their notes, they claimed that the band got together and recorded it in a pacy 45 minutes in an abandoned warehouse in Hartford, Connecticut. About a month ago, when I received the initial two singles from the album, “What’cha Gonna Do About It” and “Gudbuy T’ Jane”, I was instantly hooked. I finally picked up the album last weekend, and I’m still hooked. Thirty-one minutes of simple lo-fi, guitar-driven glory. Roped in by the Condo Fucks.
Some might scoff at the idea of a band putting out an entire album of covers, but this is nothing new to Yo La Tengo. In fact, the legendary Fakebook remains to this day one of Yo La Tengo’s finest efforts. It contains only five original YLT songs, the others consisting of mostly folk and country tune-ups. What is your thought on covers? Some laugh at the idea, and consider it a lazy effort to put out more albums, while other view it as dishonest and occasionally disrespectful to predecessors. I, for one, believe that covers can shed new light on bands that are “difference-makers” in our current scene. What drives them or inspires them? A masterfully crafted work of covers, or simply paying homage to influences in your shows, can often go a long way towards helping the fans understand more about music history. And in an age where we have blogs, message boards, fan clubs, etc. devoted to the every tidbit of our favorite artists, isn’t it beautiful to be surprised, or tricked? Like Sir Paul McCartney, Yo La Tengo has crafted their legend on not attempting to follow a normal “track” for the typical artist–they simply put out great music (lots of it), and desire to take the listener on a new ride.
Fellow Condo Fucks-appreciators Aquarium Drunkard have done an extensive interview with Yo La Tengo’s James McNew about Fuckbook, and what drove them to release such an oddly-timed record. For the music nerds, take the red pill and dive in headfirst here.