by Peter Brizick
We live in a disposable, replaceable, instant-gratification, here today and gone tomorrow age. Much has been thought, written and spoken of this unfortunate reality. According to the National Football League’s communication department, the average career of a first-round draft choice who makes an opening-day roster is roughly nine years. According to The Economist, a well-known and respected publication, the average length of a marriage in the developed world is 13.5 years; in the United States, the number drops to eight years. The longest time period allowable for a President to serve in office is eight years with no constitutional option of returning for an additional tenure at any point. Nothing lasts forever – but some things, like the critically acclaimed band, Yo La Tengo, beat the odds and averages. They have managed to withstand the tests of time, trends, personal and professional changes, industry upheaval, and public expectations. And they did it on their terms.
Yesterday marked the 30th anniversary of the band from Hoboken, New Jersey making their official live debut; and what a gift that is to their fans, the industry, and themselves. They are celebrating with the release of Extra Painful, a deluxe edition, double LP/double CD package of the band’s first album for Matador Records. Back in 1993, it was simply named Painful. Fast-forward to 2014, I suppose it is also extra sweet. The band begins a series of celebratory shows taking them to New York City, Washington D.C., and arriving here in Philadelphia for a soiree at the Trocadero on Saturday, December 6th. James McNew, YLT’s multi-talented bass-player, spoke to That Mag in advance of the release and performance.
“The main goal for the album,” McNew states, “is to give our fans a deluxe version of this material and to be a ‘Thank You’ to them for supporting us all these years.” I ask him how their fans have grown with them over the years and how they attract new ones. “Our long-term fans have stuck with us because we have stuck to who we are and what we do. New followers seem to just find us and appreciate that we always approach what we do on our terms,” McNew went on to say.
Additionally, McNew says that the band is currently working on some brand-new material that may be released in the next year or so, but there is no detailed timeline as of this writing. There are also no plans to use any new instrumentation or technology in recording the new material. “If anything, we are going backwards in those terms and keeping things more basic. But there will be a few little surprises,” McNew says.
On the matter of touring and performing, I was curious to hear about their experiences both state-side as well as around the world. McNew shares that “cities are more or less the same, but shows can differ dramatically. Some shows are gigantic while others are small and intimate. Our albums have continued to be available in Europe, Australia, New Zealand and even Asia – so we still have had many performing opportunities outside of the United States.”
Take a moment and just think about all that has changed and occurred since Yo La Tengo emerged in 1984: computers and the internet; CDs and mp3s; mobile phones; hybrid vehicles; fiber optics; DNA testing and genome mapping; bar codes and scanners; cancer treatments; stock market crash of 1987; the tech bubble; fall of the Berlin Wall; attacks of 9/11; recent financial crisis; and five Presidents, one who survived an assassination attempt only to succumb to Alzheimer’s, something the work of the last thirty years has not succeeded in changing. The band’s career has navigated all of these developments while maintaining their prized integrity and uniqueness. Heck – The Beatles only lasted for about ten years.
So – I look forward to being present for the celebration at the Trocadero on Saturday evening and ask McNew about his feelings for Philadelphia. “We love Philly. Being that we are from New Jersey, even when we’re not playing, we always seem to end up there from time to time,” he says. On Saturday night, they most certainly will be here to play, celebrate, thank their fans, win some new ones, and if they have not already, ponder the magnitude of the odds and averages they beat. That’s a true gift.