Yo La Tengo & Euros Childs, Camden Roundhouse, November 8th
Hullo! Today my Yo La Tengo / Euros review appears in the Morning Star. It featured some strange and also some entirely understandable subbing. Here’s the original, unsubbed copy, featuring unnecessary nostalgia. Ah, velvet jackets, and the wearing thereof.
Yo La Tengo & Euros Childs – Camden Roundhouse, London
I first saw Yo La Tengo as a fresh faced undergraduate, and I was wearing a blue velvet jacket at the time. I know this because I found the program for the concert in its pocket during a recent clear out. Other things I remember: I drank three pints before turning up, and promptly fell asleep during the droning, meditative, 10 minute long opening track. Only to be awoken by crunching, almost industrial noise from Ira Kaplan’s guitar.
Later that month, I sneaked backstage after a Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci gig, and their frontman Euros Childs gave me a cold by sneezing on me.
Fast forward ten years – yes, it’s been ten years – and they’re playing a show together at the Camden Roundhouse. And they haven’t aged a bit, the bastards.
First up, permanently cherubic Euros Childs and his engaging brand of folk-pop eccentricity. There was always a dark underbelly to Gorkys’ whimsy, but half a decade of glorious, ignored solo albums have left their mark on Euros’ songwriting process. His new songs sound minimalist, keyboard led and still melodic – but one is explicitly about his band being treated like ‘pieces of meat’ by record execs back when they were teenagers. Fans of silliness fear not: there are also songs about witches, and bread. He finishes with a Gorky’s classic, “Let Those Blue Skies”, which is perfect. But he’s still writing the songs held so dear, that no-one wants to hear.
Had Gorkys stayed together they could have been like a Welsh Yo La Tengo: ancient, ageless, and the much-loved godfathers of an entire alternative scene. The audience is populated by, geeky, bespectacled boys in brand new Sonic Youth t-shirts, awaiting their cultural overlords and masters.
They don’t disappoint. The first two songs are long, hypnotic, droning affairs – the second, the free-ranging “More Stars Than There Are In Heaven”, features the first outbreak of Ira’s turning-on-a-hoover-next-to-an-amplifier guitar noise, followed by the first ‘wooos’, followed by the first ‘sssh’es by the audience. Due reverence is demanded in the church of Yo La Tengo.
Their new album, the possibly sarcastically named “Popular Songs”, forms much of the meat of the set. Midway, the band are joined by a nattily dressed young string section, who bear the confused disappointment of a posse who were perhaps expecting to play with someone they had at least heard of. But they add swooshy menace to brooding album opener “Here To Fall” and glossy substance to the Motown shuffle of “If It’s True”.
If anything, their new album is a kind of greatest hits of their career, and a showcase of all the styles they’ve effortlessly mastered. It’s their career in microcosm, from still to raging, with everything in between.
Come the encore, and drummer Georgia Hubley’s dreamy, heartfelt vocals to classic “Tears Are In My Eyes”, an audible sigh runs through the crowd, followed by the inevitable ssssh. This audience even self-censor their own emotional responses – Yo La Tengo just put them in soul-wrenching songs. It’s the quiet moments that I’ll remember.