Yo La Tengo’s album Electr-o-pura turns 25 on Saturday. That same day—May 2, 1995—was the day Lucy Dacus was born. And now, to celebrate the album’s anniversary, and raise some money for Mutual Aid Disaster Relief, Dacus has covered “Tom Courtenay”—the first single from Electr-o-pura, and one of Yo La Tengo’s best and most popular songs.
Dacus’s stripped down cover—just her on a guitar—captures the warmth and catchiness of Yo La Tengo’s song. Unsurprisingly, it resembles the acoustic rendition that Georgia Hubley sings, and which the band originally released on the Camp Yo La Tengo EP, more than the original album version—it has the same understated beauty, the contrast between the inherent emotion of a beautiful voice and its own icy flatness, that accentuates the humanity of the lyrics. Don’t expect the anthem you might’ve heard on college radio or seen on 120 Minutes back in the day—expect something gentler, softer, sadder, but more powerful and more lovely.
Dacus also wrote an essay about her relationship with this song, this album and this band, and how they were one of the reasons she decided to sign with Matador. You can find the full essay on YouTube, beneath the video, but for now, here’s a key excerpt.
What kept me coming back to Yo La Tengo was their understanding of moods. I listened to bands that knew anger, bands that knew sadness, but I didn’t know of any other bands that could express a full life’s range of moods the way they can. From song to song, the music was anxious, celebratory, sorrowful, content, confused, etc. And even when they got loud or dissonant, it never felt hostile. The sounds could be harsh, even ugly, but they were joyful. Some songs could make me cry, but they were gentle, not malevolent. I was taking on someone else’s tastes, and in the process, discovering my own.