I’m a great believer in ‘Best Of’ collections. No really, I am – I can already hear you muttering that a true fan would already own all those songs and that in these days of PC CD burning, iPods and MP3s compilations are an expensive extravagance. Bear with me.
Not only do they make great Christmas presents for your mum and aunty – Best Of Rod Stewart, perhaps? Nat King Cole‘s Greatest Hits, perchance? – they’re a way of replacing long-since worn-out cassettes. And, in a neat marketing trick, they’re often jampacked with exclusives, remixes and previously unreleased tracks. The Yo La Tengo compilation is no exception, and, with a back-catalogue as long as theirs, for the newcomer almost a necessity.
The title, Prisoners of Love: A Smattering of Scintillating Senescent Songs, 1985-2003, is long but the track-listing is longer: a weighty 26 songs on the double CD and a staggering 42 on the infinitely more wantable limited-edition triple CD.
Prisoners Of Love is a sprawling, enthralling summation of the career-to-date of Yo La Tengo. The two-CD version crams together previously released highlights from YLT’s pre-Matador tenure along with the most sizzling moments from their 2nd decade in show biz. The third disc is a rarities collection that will leave fans slavering for more: it includes tracks from their early EPs and various soundtracks.
Most of the songs are built on a foundation of lo-fi guitar, bass and brushed drums with added horns and a piano here, an organ there. At times it is upbeat and angsty, at others beautifully haunting, hushed and hypnotic. I’m sure purists will be left arguing about what tracks have been unfairly omitted but then, you’ll already own them.
For all others this is a comprehensive and welcome introduction to one of latter day America’s finest – and too oft overlooked – bands.