Skinny boys in glasses, girls in knit jumpers, record collectors of all stripes, rejoice! This Saturday, October 10, college-rock heroes Yo La Tengo are bringing the noise, the melody and the irony to Denver in the best indie-when-it-meant-something show this side of the Pavement reunion.
Ira Kaplan, Georgia Hubley and James McNew have been consistently excellent for about twenty years, and the trio knows more about music than eight of your average rock critics. They famously host a fundraising set each year in the studio of New Jersey's WFMU where they cover call-in requests; past efforts include everything from "My Sharona" to "Raw Power" to "Meet the Mets," the fight song of the band's favorite team. Between their prolific original output and their staggering repertoire of other people's music, there are about a thousand songs you could conceivably hear on Saturday. After the jump is a list of the songs we'd like to hear. Shouting these requests at the show is highly encouraged.
1. "You've Got a Friend," by Carole King: Released this summer as an iTunes-only bonus track on their latest album, Popular Songs, "You've Got A Friend" only seems like a strange song for Yo La Tengo to cover. Actually, blissful little gems like this have been a staple in the band's catalogue since they covered Pete Seeger's "Living in the Country" on their first album.
2. "The Concept," by Teenage Fanclub: Despite a catalogue over 200 songs deep, Yo La Tengo is almost never covered. Teenage Fanclub recorded "I Heard You Looking," from the album Painful, as one of the b-sides on their alternate version Neil Jung EP. Spoon is the only other band we could find to have recorded a Yo La Tengo song, but we'd rather hear Ira and the gang doing Teenage Fanclub. "The Concept," with its washed-out vocals and dreamy fuzz and kick-ass guitar solo, plays to a lot of their strengths.
3. "Atlantic City," by Bruce Springsteen: The Boss is, in many ways, Yo La Tengo's opposite. The latter is famously pithy in interviews and often seem like they're hardly trying. As for Bruce? Well, you saw the power slide. The dude is earnestness incarnate. Still, they're both from New Jersey, and that's got to count for something. Forget the (awesome) bombast of the full band stuff, but they might just go for the comparatively subdued, lo-fi production from Nebraska.
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4. "Tom Courtenay," by Yo La Tengo: No Yo La Tengo show would be complete without one huge jam (more on that later) and one nugget of pop perfection, which the band seems to cut sporadically just to prove they can. "Sugarcube" is the obvious and probably best example of this, but "Tom Courtenay" is pretty damn righteous, too. Plus, you get some ba-ba-ba-dahs to sing along to as a bonus.
5. "Stairway to Heaven," by Led Zeppelin: Just kidding.
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6. "Daylight," by Aesop Rock: Yo La Tengo bassist James McNew, in a recent interview with Pitchfork, called the Aesop Rock EP of the same name, "the decade's best, most realistic, and sincere offering of hope." Feel like spitting some verse in homage, McNew?
7. "Conjunction Junction," by Schoolhouse Rock: They'd never do it. But how awesome would this be?
8. "Night Falls on Hoboken," by Yo La Tengo: Back to the extended jam. Pretty much every album has at least one. "Blue Line Swinger," from Electr-O-Pura, is the best because it builds slowly, lazily almost, adding parts in seemingly haphazard ways and eventually locking them into place, culminating in a guitar solo that will turn you into a blob of awed Jell-O. But we've already got one Electr-O-Pura request on here, and "Night Falls on Hoboken" is the epitome of a new direction the band took at the turn of the millennium, which is to say that it's really pretty. This development alienated a lot of fans, but it's also proof of the willingness of the band to evolve. They know what people want, but they do what they want, and that's why they've managed to stay relevant all these years.
Yo La Tengo, with Cheap Time, 9 p.m. Saturday, October 10, Ogden Theatre, 935 E. Colfax Ave., $20-$25, 303-830-8497.