Release Date: Mar 24, 2009
Record label: Matador
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
Though the youthful exuberance that carried their Condo Fucks City Rockers EP and high water mark Straight Outta Connecticut to modern-classic status during their mid-1990s heyday is now noticeably muted, Fuckbook, the latest LP from New London, Conn., trio the Condo Fucks is nevertheless the veteran band's pinnacle... Oh, what the hell am I on about. Fuckbook is, despite outward appearances, the new record by Yo La Tengo.
There you go, it’s official: sweary band names are cool. Hot on the heels of Fucked Up and Fuck Buttons - both of whom made No Ripcord’s Top 50 Albums of 2008 list - come Condo Fucks. But despite the name, they’re not Satanic grindcore merchants or day-glo nu-rave upstarts from Leeds, they are in fact the band we all know as Yo La Tengo.Back in 1997, Yo La Tengo released I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One which inside, featured references to back catalogues of various fictional bands, supposedly on Matador.
As a concept, the genesis of New London, CT mock legends Condo Fucks seems easy to understand. Simply put, legit Hoboken legends Yo La Tengo had an urge to release an “easy” album but weren’t exactly dying to have it judged against its usual high standards (the band’s last covers album, 2006’s Murdering the Classics, wasn’t so ironically titled). Either that, or the trio simply relishes the opportunity to role play, which isn’t so strange, really.
Essentially a threadbare pantomime horse yanked over the heads of Yo La Tengo’s James McNew, Georgia Hubley and Ira Kaplan, Condo Fucks aren’t fooling anyone. Probably. All the same, just in case of confusion, the promo copy of Fuckbook comes slapped with a sticker bearing the smirkingly faux-earnest declaration that ‘This is not the new Yo La Tengo album’.
When I interviewed Christina Martinez of Boss Hog and Pussy Galore back in January, I commented that Pussy Galore, and her husband/bandmate Jon Spencer, were accused in the 1980s of being "overeducated, privileged, smug postmodern, deconstructionist plagiarizers (roughly)." That was a bit harsh in hindsight, but it could just as easily be said of most indie bands today. Twenty-three years ago, Pussy Galore released their most notorious recording, an entire cover album of Exile on Main Street that butchered the Rolling Stones classic with blissful glee. This year, Ira Kaplan, Georgia Hubley and James McNew of Yo La Tengo, a band of unquestionable integrity, have done essentially the same thing in their alter egos, the Condo Fucks.
One of the seminal bands on the Connecticut punk scene, New London's Condo Fucks could match any of their peers for sheer sneering attitude on their classic (if hopelessly obscure) albums Movin' In, Straight Outta Connecticut, and For Squatters Only. But despite their fearsome reputation, the Condo Fucks faded away rather than burning out in the mid-'80s, but in 2008 the band accepted an invitation to stage a surprise reunion show for the closing of the beloved New York City venue Magnetic Field. After the success of the gig, the Condo Fucks made a welcome return to the studio, but rather than re-record old favorites like "Fucking Gary Sandy," "I Hate Nutmeg," and "Hot Rails to Hartford" or struggle to write new songs that could match their power, the Condos opted to pay homage to their roots, cutting a set of covers that would honor their influences.
In 1997, in the liner notes to I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One, Yo La Tengo included a phony catalog of Matador releases. It seemed like a version of a game that a lot of people play, making up fake band and album names. Hot new releases in the catalog included G.I. Joe Extreme’s Declares War, The Shitheels’ Bucketfull of Shit, Elevator to the Brain Hotel: A Tribute to Brian Brain, and the original cast recording of the musical Heroin!.
According to Yo La Tengo’s official website, they hope their new album will be out in the fall. They then request support for their “friends,” Condo Fucks, and their hit debut, Fuckbook, a disjointed collection of noisy, lo-fi, and scrappily-composed covers. It doesn’t take a careful ear to quickly realize that these friends are in reality, Yo La Tengo, in traditional, mischievous disguise.