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Yo La Tengo Go to "War"

New album, EP, Hanukkah shows on the way

November 18, 2002 12:00 AM ET

Five weeks into recording sessions in Nashville, Yo La Tengo are finishing their new album, currently operating under the title Closer to Music, for release in April.

"We are doing our best to be intentionally vague and guarded right now about what our new album sounds like, as we're still finding that out for ourselves," jokes bassist James McNew of the set, which includes the tentatively titled tracks "Tiny Birds," "How to Make a Baby Elephant Float" and "Jailbreak 2001." "Every song except one has lyrics, we all sing lead at some point and only one song clocks in at over nine minutes. It's quiet, it's loud . . . it's a cross between early Joe Jeffrey, and slightly less early Joe Jeffrey."

n the more immediate future -- November 19th -- the Hoboken, New Jersey-based three-piece will release Nuclear War, an EP featuring four cover versions of the Sun Ra anti-combat creed "Nuclear War."

"We started doing it last year for the Hanukkah shows," says singer/guitarist Ira Kaplan. "The song's topicality had a lot to do with deciding to learn it for political and personal reasons. I think it's what's on our minds and I think on the minds of lots of other people."

One of the four takes on the tune features a choir of children chanting the chorus "It's a motherfucker."

"It was interesting to watch these kids singing stuff they at best barely understood," says singer Ira Kaplan. "They were all instructed beforehand that stuff they're saying is not something to say outside the studio. They all knew they were saying something forbidden, but I don't think the meaning of the song was sinking in."

Continuing a fledgling tradition begun last year, Yo La Tengo will play an eight-night Hanukkah homestand at Maxwell's in Hoboken, beginning November 29th and wrapping up on December 6th. Included in the price of admission will be a three-song Christmas disc. Kaplan explains, "We don't shy away from non-sequitur."

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