- Audio CD (November 19, 2002)
- Number of Discs: 1
- Format: Single
- Label: Matador Records
- ASIN: B00006YXD9
- Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #838,209 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
Nuclear War Single
Top Customer Reviews
You gotta hand it to Yo La Tengo, the Hoboken trio and Downtown music darlings, who else would do a cover EP of one of the most obscure songs from out jazz genius and oddity Sun Ra? Nuclear War originates on a Sun Ra recording from the 1982, which was released by an obscure British punk label. Distribution of the funky, pre-hiphop era rap song was minimal to say the least, but made a stir among some of the few musicians who heard it. The profile of the cut was raised in 2001 when Atavistic released it on its Unheard Music Series and then really raised when this EP came out in 2002, as the US was gearing up for the Gulf War Redux.
The EP consists of four cuts of the same material, a gutsy move in it's own right, as the Sun Ra song is nothing if not repetitious. The first cut features Yo La Tengo alone, with Ira leading the vocals and accompanied by some deft percussion jams. The second cut features a chorus of children singing the responses to Ira's lead vocal. The primary effect of this cut is the unsettling humor of hearing children swear, and the even more unsettling experience of hearing the children's laughter at the end of the apocalyptic song. The third cut is the real reason I got the EP however, It features a gaggle of great New York free jazz musicians, including several who actually gigged or recorded with Sun Ra. Solos by Sabir Mateen, Roy Campbell and Daniel Carter are worth the price of this recording alone. Sabir is alternatively funky and Ayleresque, while Campbell and Carter dip into some wild and raunchy blues. The final cut features rapper and downtown poet Mike Ladd, remixing the other tracks, interesting, but it doesn't add much to the impact of the disc.
Is this an essential CD? No.Read more ›
The first cover of "Nuclear War" is entertainingly poppy and bright, while the second is different mainly because of a chorus of children singing every other line. The third track is a sprawling, jazzily chaotic cover, with a muddle of clashing cymbals and murmuring backing vocals. And finally the fourth cover, a sputtering, spacey psychedelic remix that just sounds overstuffed.
It's a fun little disc, but not really something to listen to frequently. The final cut is overmixed, and the second one is mainly noticeable because it has little kids joyously announcing, "It's a mother****er!" every minute or so. The third cover is the gem, a perfect blend of free jazz and punky indie-rock.
The sound of "Nuclear" is rawer and more angular than most of what Yo La Tengo now does. And Ira Kaplan does some likably jaded vocals, that help spice up the simplistic lyrics: "Talkin about/yeeeaaahhh/Nuclear war/Yeaaaahhh." Basic political message: Nuclear war is bad, and you are in trouble if you "push that button."
The "Nuclear War" single is entertaining enough, but not exactly memorable, even for Yo La Tengo fans. You may push that button, but only one or two tracks will make you push the "repeat button."
The first version features the trio performing a relatively straight cover of the original-- anchored by an absolutely fantastic drum performance, Ira Kaplan takes the role of Sun Ra in the original, intoning the original lyrics, predicting the end of days via nuclear war "if they push that button". James McNew and Georgia Hubley take the chorus role, in a call and response pattern. Kaplan manages to maintain a serious tone, even in the face of the vaguely goofiness of the lyric. It's kind of hard to explain the piece-- when it originally came out in 1982, I imagine it was quite jarring-- a protorap performance with a gospel-styled vocal. In 2008, it's no less jarring.
The second version overdubs a watery, throbbing bassline and about a dozen children singing the response. It has the effect of emphasizing the jarring the nature of the piece, the lyrics aren't exactly the kind of thing that you'd expect a child to sing. I suppose I could make some dramatic statement about nuclear war as the end of innocence, but trutfully, as a parent I find it mildly creepy. Then again, that may have been the goal. The third version augments the first with performances by percussionist Susie Ibarra, trumpeter Roy Campbell, Jr. reedmen Daniel Carter and Sabir Mateen and record store owner Josh Madell. The ensemble overdubs frantic vocals and additional percussion over the original (with Kaplan adding a swinging piano performance that I never knew he had in him) prior to breaking into a great solo section with blazing performances from all three horns over the percussive stew. Campbell in particular catches fire and provides just a standout performance.Read more ›
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