The Greatest Band On Earth

The Greatest Band On Earth (borrowed image)

So there’s really only three kinds of people in the world (or, more accurately, three kinds of people in My World): there are the people who, when I meet them, I instantly and intuitively hate for no reason; there are the people who, when I meet them, I instantly and intuitively love for no reason; and then there’s the other 80% of the population to whom I’m more or less indifferent excepting that I’m waiting to figure out if I love them.

The thing about the extremes is this. If I meet you and I hate you, there’s nothing to be done about it. It’s a gut level reaction — no matter how thoroughly un-Buddhist — that tells me that there’s something just not right about you. Or, at the very least, not right about the combination of you and I. No matter what you may do to the contrary, no matter how many good deeds, no matter how many objectively nice things you might do in the world, I’m not convinced. It’s not personal, mind you. It’s just the way things are. And, increasingly over the years, I’ve been proven right. I’ve been led to believe that I should trust my instincts. The people I’ve disliked have turned out to be people I really shouldn’t associate with for some reason or other.

On the other end of the extreme are the people that I love, instantly and thoroughly. And nothing they do will convince me otherwise. I could find out that such a person recently ran over their pet hamster with their car just to see what it would feel like, and I’d find myself saying, “Well, they must have had a good reason…” It’s an unapologetic affinity, mind you, and it’s bound to get me into trouble one of these days. But, as of right now, it’s been as harmless as my instant dislike of some folks has been right on target.

In steps, as Matador records has dubbed them, The Greatest Ban On Earth, Yo La Tengo. When I first heard YLT’s music, it was like those lucky souls whom I meet and thoroughly, unapologetically, and intrinsically love love love. There’s such a deep affinity going on over here for YLT that at times, I don’t really want to know anything about them, their history, their background, not even their names — as if knowing too much would spoil this naive and innocent love that I have for them.

But curiosity always gets the best of me. Hell, let them speak for themselves. How can you not love a bunch of kids from Hoboken who write stuff like this?

What’s more, they have made consistently great music lo these many years. And I do mean Great. Everything from the playful and harsh indi-punk tunes on President Yo La Tengo or New Wave Hot Dogs to the lush and lucid soundscapes of And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out and Summer Sun.

And while we’re on the subject of Summer Sun, can I declare, right here, that this really is the best album for summertime ever? I’ve been accused of being more than a little mistaken on this topic. The album, by and large, is languid and melancholy and even a tad bit moody. But to believe that these feelings are not a part of anyone’s summer is more than a little mistaken in my not so humble opinion. Who doesn’t remember that last week of summer break before school started when they were sixteen or so, hanging out in someone’s older brother’s car in a parking lot somewhere, smoking cigarettes and drinking cheep beer and thinking about what a fucking great summer it had been and feeling totally full of the wonderful connections between friends and, simultaneously, knowing this was a fleeting feeling, that it was The End of Summer, not just because school was starting in a week but because you were sixteen and the number of days left when you could hang out in someone’s older brother’s car in a parking lot were necessarily numbered.

It’s like cherry blossoms, really. The Japanese have long had a love affair with cheery blossoms, flowers which are so beautiful and made so much more beautiful by how very temporary and transitory their short lives are.

So Yo La Tengo can do no wrong. At least, they can do no wrong in My World. Hell, in an earlier incarnation of this site, I used one of their little ditties as background music. When I wrote to them to ask if that was okay, they gave me this response.

So it’s always been nothing less than love at first sight.

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