And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out

A note: The Albums That I Own podcast has started, sort of. I’ve posted a two-minute intro podcast. In it, I just recount what I do, what the podcast will be, etc. The podcast site is here. If you would like to be a guest on the podcast or have a topic suggestion for it, please e-mail me (rjgianfortune at gmail dot com).

Anyway, back to the reviews.

Band: Yo La Tengo
Album: And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out
Best song: “Cherry Chapstick,” “You Can Have It All” and “Let’s Save Tony Orlando’s House” are among the band’s best songs.
Worst song: “Night Falls on Hoboken” is about 10 minutes too long.

There are new bands to be discovered. There are bands that recreate themselves a million times. There are bands that engender passion and those that spawn a million other bands.

Yo La Tengo isn’t really any of those bands. Having produced top-quality Independent Rock for going on 25, the trio’s various rock sounds have been the backbone of intelligent college radio people since the mid-late 1980s.

The husband-and-wife-plus-fat-friend formula is not one that’s been copied, but it remains classic. Using atmospherics, dual vocals and quirky flair, Yo La Tengo remains one of the genre’s stalwarts.

As is a constant on this site — especially lately — I want to get into my own personal experiences with this band.


My freshman year of college (hell, just about my entire college experience), the station was my life and indie rock soundtracked said life. So, when I found out that Yo La Tengo was coming to Columbia during my spring break, I had to see the show.

There is something of import to remember here: non-frat freshman almost always live in the dorms during their freshman year.

A friend (also a freshman who lived across the hall) and I drove down from Chicago to Columbia a few days before the weeklong break ended. However, we didn’t realize that the dorms were locked and inaccessible during the spring break. The show was Friday night. Drew (my friend) and I had nowhere to stay Friday and Saturday night.

The first night, we saw a friend with an open couch and a roommate’s bed to sleep on; I remember it being the most uncomfortable couch on which I’ve ever slept. But, it was somewhere to sleep. His roommates were back for Saturday night, so we had no idea where to stay.

One of the things about college radio is that there are often open shifts during breaks. So, geniuses that were were, we decided to sleep in shifts at the station — KCOU had a horrifyingly uncomfortable couch– and the other would work the board, play music, etc.

It was a fun time and one I’m really glad I had. That’s college, you know? It’s doing stupid shit and enjoying it.

Yo La Tengo’s ninth album is considered by many — as in our good friend Wikipedia — to be a change in musical direciton, but I’d more consider it an expansion of their previous album, I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One.

That album’s “Sugarcube” is one of the band’s best songs, with an uptempo craziness. Indeed, And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out‘s similar song is moreso. “Cherry Chapstick” is longer, more insane and better, with Ira Kaplan’s guitar sounding like Ken Vandermark’s sax. “Tired Hippo” uses a little drum machine and a tropical bass line to much surprise. “Tears Are In Your Eyes” is slow and lovely, with a Georgia Hubley vocal to die for.

Outside of “Chery Chapstick,” the album’s two highlights are decidedly different. “You Can Have it All” — a cover, originally written by the guy from KC & the Sunshine Band — is a background-y arranged track with an ABBA-esque vocal. Kaplan’s “bum bum bum bum ba bums” fill the track as Hubley intones the sweet disco lyric.

The other great song is one of the reasons I love this band. “Let’s Save Tony Orlando’s House” is a song, but is also a line from one of the three best television comedies ever (it was a Troy McClure-hosted telethon). That there is a band out there willing to name a song after a line in the Simpsons? And a good band, not some crappy emo band from my high school that made it big after naming itself from a character?

Anyway, “Let’s Save Tony Orlando’s House” has a driving keyboard lead line and another of Hubley’s best vocal tracks. Hubley’s voice is one of YLT’s best aspects; it’s slightly powerful while very soft. An easy drumline and a great lyric (“We proudly welcome/Tony Orlando”) make for one of the band’s best songs.

OK, one more thing about this record from my musical biography or whatever.

I applied and was accepted admission to the University of Missouri without every visiting the campus. All I wanted to do was get the hell out of my parents’ house in any way I could. So, the second MU gave me the go-ahead, I said “let’s do this.”

Anyway, as mentioned before, I was raised — musically, that is — by my high school mentors’ tastes and WNUR. Missouri, as a state, seemed to me to be a backwoods nowhere state, but it was more important to me to get out of Dodge than actually care about what eventually became my passion. In short, I had no idea if MU had a college radio station.

To make a long-story somewhat short, I did a registartion weekend thing there during the summer (the famed “Summer Welcome” many MU students will remember) and there was a KCOU booth at the activities fair. I was heartened to know that this Southern — anything south of Peoria is the South to a Chicagoan — outpost had some people interested in Thrill Jockey, Matador and Sub Pop.

Fast forward to the winter.

A few of us go-getters implored the dudes we worshipped at the station — Tony, John, John and Ryan — to let us on the music staff. The new Yo La Tengo record, And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out, had been sent to the station and instead of handing it out to one or another senior music staff member to review — SOP for even huge albums — the PD (one of the Johns) decided to have a listening party thing at the house he rented. We got a bunch of beer, listened to the record and passed a legal pad around. The next week, he would type it up and those notes would be the official review.

I probably had one sentence in the thing; I didn’t feel like I had any particular insight on the record. But, I’ll say this, it was one of the three best moments of my freshman year of college (the other two being the first kiss with my then-girlfriend and the time she sorted through all the Chex I like out of the Chex mix and gave it to me as something to eat on the drive home to Chicago).

At the onset, I was constantly worried about my place within the station. I initially felt like I didn’t belong a little and I felt like I wasn’t pretentious enough because I only listened to big indie stuff (YLT, Pavement, etc.) and stuff from Chicago (Thrill Jockey, Touch & Go, etc.).

But, sitting at that little gathering, I felt like I belonged. Forget the fact that it’s the band’s best record, And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out is tremendously important to me simply for that.

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  • About Me

    I'm Ross Jordan Gianfortune. I am not a writer, but I sometimes write here about music and my life. I live in Washington, DC.

    I used to review each of Rolling Stone Magazine's top 500 albums of all time. Now I'm writing about albums I own.

    My work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Gazette, The Atlantic, Sno-Cone and a bunch of defunct zines.

    You can contact me at rjgianfortune at gmail dot com.

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