My wife is a practical Midwesterner and doesn’t have a lot of patience for songs that go on for more than three minutes. If we’re playing a CD in the car and a guitar solo stretches on for more than eight bars, she’ll hit the skip button. She doesn’t mind if a song gets noisy or weird, so long as it’s over quickly. One of her favorites is Guided By Voices, that band of Midwesterners who indulged their every drunken whim but were polite enough to end each song before it repeated itself.
Yo La Tengo, on the other hand, presents problems. She loves Fakebook, the band’s (mostly) covers album, and she likes sweet, pop-ish original songs such as “Sugarcube” and “Hey Mr. Tough.” But when we last saw Yo La Tengo together a few years ago, she got antsy whenever one of Ira Kaplan’s skronky guitar solos stretched on for a while, or when Kaplan, Georgia Hubley, and James McNew locked into a krautrock- or Sun Ra–inspired groove and held it until time seemed to stand still.
She’s got a point: Yo La Tengo gets more than a little self-indulgent at times. The new album, Popular Songs, ends with a suite of three songs with a combined running time of more than 36 minutes — much of it with no vocals, no drum beats, and only minimal guitar and bass.
But I like that side of Yo La Tengo almost as much as I like the “Sugarcube” side. And to me, the remarkable thing is that Yo La Tengo has mastered these two seemingly incongruous styles, and many more. If you don’t like one song, just wait a minute — or 36. You’ll like the next one.
YO LA TENGO: Soma, Friday, October 16, 7 p.m. 858-226-7663. $20.