I have no doubt that the Condo Fucks (who are really Yo La Tengo, who I really like) had a lot of fun making Fuckbook, an album of cover songs I mostly haven’t heard of, which I honestly prefer to covers albums of songs I know and love. My expectations for the songs on Fuckbook are nonexistent. They seem to be some old-school garage rock tunes and the Condo Fucks (fucks who live in condos, naturally) treat them as such, meaning most of the tracks on Fuckbook sound like they were kicked around a garage until they stopped fucking moving. In fact, the album sounds like it was recorded live in a garage on a portable cassette player. At a band’s first rehearsal. This isn’t your White Stripes garage rock, kids. This is like the Stooges learning to play their instruments while recording their first album.
The albums sounds okay on tinny speakers (like the ones on my laptop), especially if you’re not paying close attention to it. But if you’re reviewing the album, you kinda have to pay attention to it. That being the case, Fuckbook is mostly unlistenable in a harmless, fun sort of way (as opposed to the harmful, physically painful, murder-inducing way that Wavves is unlistenable. What? It’s been at least 3 posts since I’ve dissed Wavves) with a midsection that approaches good, starting with their take on the Beach Boys’ “Shut Down” and going through Georgia Hubley’s singing on “With a Girl Like You”.
The thing is, Yo La Tengo – I mean, Condo Fucks – are clearly having a good time, but there’s something that bothers me a lot about Fuckbook: I know how much fun it is to fuck around with some friends and beat up some old tunes and play loud and sloppy and all that. Which is why I know that no one should ever pay to hear it. Now, I’m not going to say that Fuckbook would hold more musical appeal for me if it was a free download or a bonus disc on an upcoming YLT release, but it would certainly help. At the end of the day, Fuckbook (I never get tired of typing that) is a genre album by a band that is good at synthesizing myriad genres into their main gig (listen to… uh… all of I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass). And while Yo Condo Fucks Tengo (rough translation? “I have Condo Fucks”, I believe) have very effectively represented their genre of choice – Fuckbook definitely sounds like an old garage rock record – genre albums always strike me as being an exercise in “Hey! Look what I can do!” This is almost always a bad idea because you end up making people just wish they were listening to their favorite artists in whatever genre you’re aping. For instance, Elvis Costello’s My Flame Burns Blue (big band/ vocal genre) made me want to listen to Frank Sinatra or somebody like that and The Killers’ Sam’s Town (Springsteen is a genre, right?) made me want to fucking kill the Killers. Where was I?
Oh yeah. I’m on about my fourth trip through Fuckbook now and it still never gets better than “mostly okay,” even though I still think it’s a lot of fun. Mostly, it makes me want to stick my electric guitar in a big, echoey room and bash the shit out of some of my favorite tunes. But I’m not gonna sell the results to you for 20 bucks.
Fuckbook has been generally well-received by the critics, and I can see its appeal. I like that this album exists. A whole lot, actually. But liking the fact of something is different from actually liking the thing itself. I know a few people who like what the Dead Kennedys were all about, but most of ’em aren’t gonna be cranking up any of their tunes (I, on the other hand, want to broadcast “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” over a church PA during a baptism someday) with any kind of regularity. My soft spot for Condo Fucks generates from a love of noisy, shambolic, and slightly obnoxious music, but said soft spot isn’t large enough that I would advocate paying for your very own copy of Fuckbook.
At the end of the day, it’s hard to give Fuckbook a definitve yay or nay because its good bits are awesome (their take on “Shut Down” does to surf rock what should’ve been done the moment it came into existence: it takes it into the alley out back and beats the living shit out of it) – I’m listening to “Gudbuy T’Jane”, the album closer, right now, and it’s actually really good. Maybe Fuckbook (is someone going to start a pornographic social networking site called Fuckbook? That would be hilarious) is going to grow on me more over time, but my guess is you won’t hear me singing its praises at parties or listing it among my favorites at year’s end.