The focus here is very much on Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley, the husband and wife team at the heart of the New Jersey band, and their music of course. Starting with a fairly extensive trawl through the couple’s family backgrounds, Big Day Coming moves through the band’s long career, with chapters often built around the making of a specific album. Kaplan and Hubley made their way through well over a dozen bass players before settling on James McNew in 1991. He has also been ever present since then.
There is some insight into the changing (independent) music industry over the last 20-30 years, but the book may be of limited interest to non YLT fanatics. Many other bands that have come into contact with the Tengos feature, among them contemporaries like Pavement, Dinosaur Jr. and Sonic Youth, but not in great detail.
Not only was it a good read but, armed with new information, it gave me the chance to spend an enjoyable month or two listening to Yo La Tengo’s extensive back catalogue (fourteen studio albums from 1986-2015, as well as a penchant for cover versions and new takes on their own songs).
I first heard YLT when I got hold of a tape of their second album, New Wave Hot Dogs, at the tail end of the 80’s. So much of their subsequent work passed me by for too long. But with hindsight, it’s hard to think of anyone who has put together a more consistent and impressive catalogue over the last 30 years, and this remarkable trio are still doing good things.