Yo La Tengo‘s 2000 album, And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out, is subtle, sophisticated, and features unexpected, complex lyrics and rich melodies. For this reason, it is an ideal album to pair with the caramelized fennel fettuccine with poached egg recipe that Kasey recently threw together in a not uncommon moment of culinary genius. The list of ingredients in the recipe is relatively simple: spinach fettuccine, fennel, eggs, grated cheese, salt and pepper. Nonetheless, the flavors blend together amazingly well and create a dish that would please even the most sophisticated palates. Likewise, And Then Nothing… is a simple album that consists primarily of soft, airy ballads that, if given an opportunity, will grow on even the most jaded of music critics. The album features warm, comforting melodies that hum and drone across a complex sound stage alongside literate, evocative lyrics that combine light-hearted pop-culture references (the Simpsons, Tony Orlando, author Thomas Pynchon, and Frankie Vallie) with emotionally rich subject matter.
The album is said to have taken its title from a Sun Ra quote: “…At first there was nothing…then nothing turned itself inside out and became something,” which can be said to be beautifully simple or devastatingly complex depending on how you choose to read it. In that regard, it is a fitting title for the album. For example, “Our Way to Fall” is a relatively straight-forward and jazzy ballad about falling in love: “I remember before we met / I remember sitting next to you / And I remember pretending I wasn’t looking.” But, of course, for as simple as “falling in love” may be, the feelings associated with it, and invoked by the song, are very deep – anything but simple. Other highlights include “Let’s Save Tony Orlando’s House,” which borrows its title from a telethon hosted by the character Troy McClure on the Simpsons and is lyrically a fictitious story about a jealous Frankie Valli burning down Tony Orlando’s house over a fictitious woman named Dawn (there is a Frankie Valli song called “Dawn (Go Away)” and Tony Orlando’s backing band was called Dawn). Another standout is the lovely “You Can Have It All,” which is a reworking of a song by soul/disco artist George McCrae, but is so completely remodeled it is nearly unrecognizable from the original. The Yo La Tengo version includes doo-wop backing vocals, Georgia Hubley’s soothing vocals, and a well placed cello. For the most part, the album is languid and dreamy, but the band breaks up the pace with the fuzzed-out, electric shimmer of the excellent “Cherry Chapstick.” This one is long out-of-print on vinyl so you will have to head to ebay or gemm.com to find a copy on vinyl.
Head back to eating/sf to read the recipe for Kasey’s caramelized fennel fettuccine with poached egg recipe.