Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One
Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley have put into practice a boho dream: a relaxed, self-supporting sexual-domestic partnership devoted 24-7 to music and a few well-loved sidelines--movies, baseball, cheap restaurants, slacking around with each other and their muso pals. That the playmates include bassist James McNew making them a trio just proves how idyllic their creation is. Just pray the image is fact. We earthlings need all the heavens we can get.

As the 1996 outtakes double-CD Genius + Love = Yo La Tengo establishes beyond doubt, not all the music emanating from Yo La Land is perfect. That's intentional--this paradise not only has room for error, it revels in the human-scale joys of inexpertise. The reason Yo La don't end up with yet another of alt-indie's homemade wanks is how regularly and magnificently they transcend themselves, especially on 1995's Electr-O-Pura and now this equally charming, noisy, unpredictable ramble.

For side one, call it--through track nine on a 16-track CD that wouldn't be Yo La Tengo without the 10-minute organ wash "Spec Bebop," which gathers momentum around 8:00--I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One is perfect. From the misshapen piano figure that trumps "Moby Octoped"'s Peter Townshend guitar swell to "Deeper Into Movies"'s raveup workout, from Georgia's simulated Astrud Gilberto cover to McNew's simulated Neil Young ballad, this is a band that not only delves its vast record collection but has figured out what makes its faves tick and what makes its tickers beat as one. The very peak is "Autumn Sweater," which with its "We could slip away" refrain comes on like (gulp!) a cheating song, only to reveal itself as Ira's diffident, lovestruck tribute to Georgia's companionable support. It's followed by--why not?--the Beach Boys' "Little Honda."

As is only fitting, side two is pokier. There's more slow Ira guitar. There's a vaguely Hawaiian instrumental complete with crickets and another lovely Georgia bossa nova--lounge/ambient done right, like their My Bloody Valentine moves of yore. And in summation there's a sweet cover of a song I once knew all too well. Damned if I can remember which pre-Beatle wimp had a hit with "My Little Corner of the World." But so what? Now it's Ira and Georgia's. "We can hide away in our little corner of the world," they promise. And for 68 minutes, we can.

Spin, June 1997