Laughing Matters — Yo La Tengo, “Sugarcube”

Sometimes comedy illuminates hard truths with a pointed urgency that other means can’t quite achieve. Sometimes comedy is just funny. This series of posts is mostly about the former instances, but the latter is valuable, too.

To the degree that any outlets were still playing music videos in 1997, there was little chance Yo La Tengo was going to be given prime placement of any playlists. So there was no real reason to take the process of making one particularly seriously. Instead, the trio from Hoboken partnered up with the creators of Mr. Show with Bob and David, still in the midst of its initial run on HBO, and created a music video that gleefully mocked their humble place in the music industry with some sharp, but somehow admiring, jabs in at the ludicrous excess of rock ‘n’ roll. The track “Sugarcube,” taken from Yo La Tengo’s exceptional album “I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One,” is almost relegated to pure background, in favor of depicting the travails of Georgia Hubley, Ira Kaplan, and James McNew as they endure the indignity of struggling through coursework at the Pres. McKinley Academy of Rock. There are tremendous comedic craftspeople at work in the video, doing great work, but there may be no funnier moment than Ira Kaplan’s line reading of “Probably not.”

Previous entries in this series can be found by clicking on the “Laughing Matters” tag.

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