Every spring since 1996, an indie band from New Jersey has rallied around a local radio station to support its annual fundraising drive. The band accepts requests from listeners, and even if they don’t know the tunes, they manage to fake their way through them well enough to entertain and to be asked back year after year.
New Jersey’s WFMU has been enlisting the support of the native New England rockers Yo La Tengo for over a decade. In 2006, along with the band’s well received LP, I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass, Yo La Tengo released a compilation of their radio station song interpretations called Yo La Tengo Is Murdering The Classics.
In March 2008, a Brooklyn club called Magnetic Field closed. To help with the send-off, the club invited a new and obscure band called Condo Fucks to play. Fans of the indie scene were glad to discover that their initial suspicions were correct: Condo Fucks and Yo La Tengo were one and the same group.
Now, Condo Fucks / Yo La Tengo have released yet another collection of recorded covers, Fuckbook. You might call it a sequel to the band’s 1994 release of covers called Fakebook (which was released before their radio station efforts began). You might call it an homage to legendary bands. You might call it lo-fi as fuck.
Whatever you want to call it, these 11 songs are delivered in a quick, playful, gritty manner. One of Matador’s blurbs about Fuckbook jocularly crosses out the word “rehearsal” and replaces it with “recording session,” but you can tell that these songs were slogged out all at once with little thoughts to post-production tweaking.
At the same time, the band did put forth an effort to learn the songs correctly. Opening track What’cha Gonna Do About It stays true to the original Small Faces arrangement, only adding a good supply of distortion and noise to the mix. They also do a fairly accurate rendition of The Kinks‘ This Is Where I Belong.
Many types of audiences could be drawn to these recordings. Those who love the raw power of demos and live performances, those who hold lo-fi productions close to their heart, fans of classic indie rock, and fans of Yo La Tengo will definitely get their money’s worth with Fuckbook. But even if these are very good demo recordings, they don’t go far in terms of repeated listens.
As an homage to bands that paved the way, though, Fuckbook succeeds. Its eclectic mix of older artists’ work poises it as a gateway drug for younger audiences. If Fuckbook delivers listeners to The Troggs (With A Girl Like You), Richard Hell (The Kid With The Replaceable Head), and Slade (Gudbury T’Jane), the effort will have been worth it. But if you’ve already been exposed to these great bands, Fuckbook might simply serve as an inspiration to go back and listen to the originals.