And Then The Mailbag Turned Itself Inside-Out: A Yo La Tengo Fan’s Over/Under

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This email came from reader Zachary Malkinson of Boulder, Colo., in anticipation of a Yo La Tengo Over/Under. Anyone else want to steal our thunder?

I realize these columns aren’t democratic, but I wanted to add my two cents for consideration when compiling the inevitable Over/Under on Yo La Tengo:

:: The Five Most Overrated Yo La Tengo Songs (In No Particular Order)
1. “Tom Courtenay”

They play this at every show. It’s a good song, but not even close to their best. I’d rather see “Autumn Sweater,” “Big Day Coming” or anything from May I Sing With Me than “Tom Courtenay.” I can’t figure out where the adoration comes from. In October, I saw them play an acoustic version, which was a treat, although the dude behind me continued to shout a request for “Tom Courtenay” for the rest of the night.

2. “Blue Line Swingers”
This is the song where my wife always leaves to go to the bathroom. It’s a very good song, but there are a limited number of extended guitar riffs they will play on a given night, and they play it a lot. I would rather hear “Story Of Yo La Tango” any day.

3. “Pass The Hatchet, I Think I’m Goodkind”
Another good song that is overplayed. (See above entry on spreading out the swirling-guitar jams.)

4. “Nuclear War”
We saw them play this at the Fillmore in San Francisco while Iraq War protests were swirling in 2004. It was poignant and funky. Recently, they played this in Denver, and it lost some of its luster.

5. “Season Of The Shark”
Why this was included on the greatest-hits compilation evades me. It’s a perfectly fine song, but a hit? Nah.

:: The Five Most Underrated Yo La Tengo Songs (In No Particular Order)
1. “We’re An American Band”

From the slow, hushed, road-music beginnings to the sprawling guitar work of the climax, this song really shows the range Yo La Tengo can pull off.

2. “False Alarm”
Not only is this song a little funky and a little caustic, it is incredible to see live: Ira Kaplan shaking maracas while tormenting the organ: an absolute delight. One of their most exuberant moments.

3. “Today Is The Day”
For the same reasons, we love “Cherry Chapstick,” “Sugarcube,” “Nothing To Hide” and “From A Motel 6.” This song has all the fuzz with classic understated vocals.

4. “Magnet”
This song really captures what it is like when the band goes to the front of the stage with an acousitic guitar and Georgia Hubley uncomfortably singing. It is pretty and sweet with a perfect country shuffle.

5. “And The Glitter Is Gone”
This is so good, I can’t believe they don’t play it every night. See the rooftop performance of this tune: brilliant.

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