Things to Do in Fort Wayne and Beyond

The Chris Stamey Experience / A Question of Temperature


Greg W. Locke

Whatzup Features Writer

Published February 17, 2005

Heads Up! This article is 17 years old.

Originally credited as “Chris Stamey and Yo

La Tengo,” A Question of Temperature began

as a neighborly jam session between long-time

friends before growing into what became studio

honcho Stamey’s latest solo effort for Yep Roc

Records.

After recording the 10-plus- minute epic

“McCauley Street (Let’s Go Downtown)” together,

they decided to cover the song that inspired Yo

La Tengo’s latest album, Stamey’s 1978 single

“Summer Sun.” The two joint sessions went well.

With their adrenaline on high, Stamey began

inviting more of his cronies (and past

collaborators) into the studio to join the party.

Despite its unorthodox format (the album is

comprised of five cover songs, the “Summer Sun”

rehashing, three instrumental tracks, four

originals, a hidden track and a snippet urging

listeners to vote), Temperature is

conceivably the first noteworthy album of the new

year.

Known mostly for his production work with

Whiskeytown, Yo La Tengo, Le Tigre, Ben Folds,

The Squirrel Nut Zippers and Alejandro Escovedo,

Stamey obtained his roots in the early 80s with

his band The dB’s and as a member of Alex

Chilton’s (Big Star) band. Now a full fledged

elder-statesmen of indie rock, Stamey has

released the most complete album of his solo

career in Temperature, an album that feels

too triumphant to be considered a side project

for all involved parties.

Stamey’s animated voice perfectly complements

the two guitar set-up of Stamey and Ira Kaplan

that would otherwise easily steal the show.

Stamey makes Television’s “Venus” sound like a

track off of Yo La Tengo’s blissful

Fakebook album rather than the edgy and

often dirty Marquee Moon. The guitar play

is insidious, as Kaplan and Stamey play dueling

solos over Georgia Hubley and James McNew’s

bouncy rhythmic backdrops. While many have unsuccessfully tried

to cover Television, Stamey and YLT have no

problems putting their own poppy spin on a

defining track from one of New York City’s

signature bands.

The covers are mostly political and

jam-oriented, specifically the upbeat Eddie

Harris/Lee McCann Vietnam-era protest song,

“Compared to What,” which features one of

Kaplan’s best guitar solo’s since And then

Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out.

Stamey’s inspiration for his first jam-oriented

project comes from an interesting place: “I was

driving in a friends car and listening to the

extra jams on the expanded edition of the Blind

Faith album. I thought simultaneously, ‘This is a

waste of good plastic’ and ‘It would be fun to

just jam a bit sometime.’”

While most of the tracks still clock in at

around four minutes, Temperature‘s

incessant nature leaves an open arena for both

Stamey and Kaplan to liven up the otherwise

straightforward recordings with their eccentric

guitar play. While some of the content does stand

pale next to the more grandiose tracks, top to

bottom, left to right, Temperature is a

solid album of predictable indie rock with no

identifiable flaws.

Typically there isn’t much of a market for

artists who are largely known for the work they

contribute to others’ projects. Luckily, Yo La

Tengo have a dedicated enough fan-base to bring a

fair share of ears to A Question of

Temperature. As much of the album does sound

like the current YLT output (specifically

“Sleepless Nights” and “McCauley Street”),

listeners should not be left disappointed. The

legend of Chris Stamey stands stronger than ever.

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