'Painful' was something of an early blueprint for another of Yo La Tengo's more beloved records, 'And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out'. Beyond their sickly blue covers, both are full of mumbled vocals, twilit riffs that slide seamlessly through the night, and romantic shoegaze outbursts. 'Extra Painful' compiles this old, understated effort from one of indie rock's subtlest acts with a second disc of original and unheard material -- plus lots of photos and an endless amount of goodies.
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A band that is in existence for as long as Yo La Tengo will divide fans as to which is their ‘golden era’. I am seemingly one of the few who believe that the band went downhill after ‘I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One’, that its golden period was the three ‘90’s albums; the aforementioned ‘I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One’, ‘Electro-Pura’ and probably their best, the soothing and calming yet sonically adventurous ‘Painful’.
Part of the problem in assessing re-issued albums against new releases is that you’ve potentially had years to digest them and they are shot through with memories from the time you bought them. This album was given to me on my 21st birthday. I was living at my parents house on the edge of a small Yorkshire town, it was late autumn and I was in the middle of that post-University, pre-work no-mans land. I had both the time and was in the melancholic frame of mind to wear this album out. It eases you in.... opener ‘Big Day Coming’ is slow and woozy, like a Velvet Underground on sleeping tablets which gives you absolutely no preparation for ‘From A Motel 6’ -a wonderfully distorted racket with some serious My Bloody Valentine guitar mangling, yet the vocals are hushed and sleepy. Its completely gorgeous. ‘Double Dare’ taps into Sonic Youth territory but as always Yo La Tengo are truly themselves with melodies that are intrinsically belonging to only them.
The first side is near perfect. The second begins with the fantastic ‘Sudden Organ’ featuring the eponymous organ battling with distorted bass for territorial advantage on a song which ends with some Keith Emerson knife-in-the-organ keys crazyiess. If the second side doesn’t quite reach the dizzy heights of Side 1 - the country-ish ‘The Whole of the Law’ is sorta out of place on this record - the droning pulsating ‘I Was the Fool Beside You’ and the magnificent post-rocky closer ‘I Heard You Looking’ are as good as anything they ever did.
This re-issue, as you might expect, comes with bonus stuff - demos, live acoustic stuff and unreleased sessions - and although having the bonus will encourage old fans to buy again, the original album is enough of a standalone masterpiece to justify its place in the collection of any discerning indie-rock fan.
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