Covers With A Tengo Twist

Few words strike fear into the hearts of serious musicians like

"cover

band." The scourge of sports bars and bar mitzvahs across the

globe, cover

bands are the musical equivalent of Old Spice aftershave: cheap,

common

and usually appealing only to drunk boys and the women who

love them.

But like much of what they do, the members of Yo La Tengo --

serious

musicians all -- break from the established rule with Little

Honda, an

EP made up entirely of cover songs. The band is no stranger to

playing

other people's material, as evidenced by its heavy use of covers

and its 1990 release, Fakebook, comprised almost entirely

of other

people's material.

Don't expect to find them at your local TGIF, breaking into

"Kokomo"

anytime soon, however. Unless you possess an archival

knowledge of bands

like the Fairport Convention and the Urinals, most of the eight

songs (only

six are listed) will most likely be unfamiliar.

The disc opens with "Little Honda," a Beach Boys song that Yo La

Tengo

infuse with more octane than was probably available when the

song was

first released in 1964. Originally covered on their last full length

album,

I Can Hear The Heart Beating as One, the song quickly

establishes

that the band likes to employ a little artistic license when working

with

other people's material. The song appears twice on the album, as

the

opener, and as the unlisted seventh track. The latter version -- a

studio

outtake -- parallels the sprawling, feedback-laden sound that is

more the

band's trademark.

That sprawl is otherwise lacking on Little Honda, but that's

understandable, given that the band chose to cover tight pop acts

like The

Kinks and Urinals. Instead, Yo La Tengo opt to explore their

smoother,

sedate side. Their take on William DeVaughan's 1974 "Be

Thankful For What

You've Got" is perfectly suited for, as the lyrics suggest, "a late

night

drive in a Cadillac," with Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley gently

harmonizing

over the galloping beat.

Before you assume the EP is Yo La Tengo's tribute to the

automobile,

consider the mournful Gram Parsons track "How Much I've Lied"

(complete

with weepy steel guitar) and ex-Fairport Convention lead singer

Sandy

Denny's "By The Time It Gets Dark," each a mournful tale of deceit

and

reconciliation.

Though Little Honda breaks little new ground, true Yo La

Tengo fans will want to snap it up anyway, if only to appease them

until the band releases its much-anticipated follow-up to I Can

Hear the Heart Beating As One.