C86
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First Track On First Album – Yo La Tengo

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In this regular feature we celebrate that all important opening track on a debut album, because for some it may have been the first song they ever heard from that artist.

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In this issue our resident feature curator John Hartley is Hoboken, New Jersey bound as he assesses the first offering from Yo La Tengo.

Artist: Yo La Tengo
Album: Ride The Tiger
Year: 1986
Track: The Cone Of Silence

I first came across Yo La Tengo way back in the mid 1990s; until now I had no idea they had already been going for a decade at that point. My first encounter was at The Boardwalk in Manchester, as the support to Stereolab. Tim Gane stood next to me for the duration of their set. He’s not as tall as he looks on stage, but he grins and bounces the same.

At the time I thought Yo La Tengo were ok, but nothing to write home about. I could see why they supported Stereolab, and couldn’t imagine them going much further. It shows what I know; two decades on from then and they are still releasing records, despite having nearly as many bass guitarists as The Fall in their time.

Debut album ‘Ride The Tiger’ was released in 1986, and it opens with ‘The Cone Of Silence’, a very good stab at a perfect three-minute pop song. Reminscent of The Go-Betweens, the track fits in with the guitar bands that would ultimately become lumped together as C86 bands.

The difference here however is that the song brims with a confidence and boldness often lacking in contemporary tracks from this side of the Atlantic. Upbeat, bouncy with crisply chorused guitars and a lyrical melody to match, ‘The Cone Of Silence’ is a great album opener and sounds as fresh today as I imagine it must have back when I was still listening to Nik Kershaw…

John Hartley


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

After spending the best part of twenty five years trying to write the perfect pop song John Hartley has turned his attention to writing about those who have done a much better job at it. He tweets as @JohnyNocash and gives away his music, generally for free. He is currently raising money to support men’s mental health charity CALM (@theCALMzone) at http://brokendownrecords.bandcamp.com/album/the-broken-heed

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What first track on whose first album will John Hartley review next time?

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Barney reviews “Sensitive” By The Field Mice

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Barney Croker is our mysterious Stig-like reviewer, who will be regularly road testing an indie classic completely virgin to their ears. He gives it straight but without the hate.

In this edition Barney appraises:-

The Field Mice – Sensitive (1989)

Absolutely no chance this could be mistaken for being from any other time than the post-C86 80s.

It reminds me very much of the Woodentops, but a Woodentops who were unable to utilise a decent producer and/or decent recording studio.

It’s a shame, because there is actually a very pleasant song and some good musicianship lurking beyond that standard production. The bassline is particularly enjoyable, and the backing lead guitar sounds pretty good. The rhythm guitar bursts (reminiscent of Public Image by Public Image Ltd) are somewhat overmixed and too abrasive to suit the actual prettiness of the song.

Lyrically I have no idea! I guess he’s bemoaning a lost love or something! But lyrics are always secondary to me anyway.

At just over 5 minutes, it’s a little bit longer than these sort of songs would normally be, unless it’s a short-change 12″ version that I’ve been listening to. If this is the standard song, then I admire their adventurousness in having a long play-out, which I guess is counter balancing the fact that the song lacks a middle-eight section. It does carry quite well and the chorus chord changes suit the play out, but the muddy production mars the interest that this would normally hold for me. New Order are the masters of the long playout after all!

All in all, I quite like it as a song and I like the idea of the long instrumental playout. But the production quality does stop me from wanting to give it regular listens.

I can well imagine this as being one of those songs that sounds much better live than the studio version.

What indie classic will Barney Croker review next time?

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