Tuesday, March 06, 2007

"Mr. Tough" / Yo La Tengo

Life is too short to spend much time listening to bands that have no sense of humor. Yo La Tengo, though -- they just about ALWAYS make me smile. Case in point: This track from their 2006 album, I Am Not Afraid Of You and I Will Beat Your Ass. (How could you not love an album title like that?)

Don't even ask me to classify Yo La Tengo's sound; they do a little of this, a little of that, but always with flair and verve. This particular song takes off with a blissfully boppy bossa nova beat (I've always been a sucker for a bossa nova), along with falsetto harmonies, sassy Latin percussion, a Vince Guaraldi-like piano line, and a razor-sharp set of horns that might as well be the Tijuana Brass. For some reason it makes me think of that jazzy bah ba-de-dah bah bah-de-dah vocal interlude that played over the bank robbery montage in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. I find myself tripping on its breezy 60s vibe; I expect Peter Sellers to walk in the door at any minute, wearing a Nehru jacket, with Claudia Cardinale on his arm. The whole thing buys me four minutes and five seconds of happiness, which in this world is not something to sneeze at.

In fact that's the theme of the song -- how music can make you happy. Verse 1 addresses Mr. Tough (forgive me if I picture George W. Bush here): "Hey, Mr. Tough / Don't you think we've suffered enough? / Why don't you meet me on the dance floor?" Verse 2 does the same with a Mrs. Blue: "Hey Mrs. Blue / Time to think of something new." I imagine them both being pulled reluctantly onto a dance floor, an old-school sort of disco, and tugged this way and that by the infectious beat until they finally relax and loosen up. That goofy falsetto vocal is just good-natured enough to pull it off.

Sure, there's a post-modern edge to it -- there's always a post-modern edge with Yo La Tengo. They're thoroughly aware that dancing won't solve everything: "And we'll forget about our problems / If only for a little while / And leave our worries in the corner / Leave 'em in a great big pile." I can just see that pile of worries in the corner, like a heap of partygoers' overcoats. We all know we'll have to pick them up at the end of the evening. But for right now, let's give ourselves a break. It's been a long winter and spring isn't here yet; we're still embroiled in Iraq, the polar ice caps are melting, millions of Americans lack health insurance . . . jeez, we need a spin on the dance floor more than ever.

Listen here: http://www.mp3.com/albums/20125835/summary.html?from=5074&tag=albums;title;recent&om_act=convert&om_clk=artalb

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