Chris Stamey, founder of smart-pop legends the dB’s, teamed up with Yo La Tengo and others to create this in just more than a weekend, and the result is one of 2005’s most pleasurable albums. Tinged with commentary on U.S. politics, A Question of Temperature begins with Stamey and company morphing into the hippest garage band on your block, with joyous renditions of the Yardbirds’ “Shapes of Things,” Cream’s “Politician,” and Stamey’s own 1977 power-pop classic “The Summer Sun” (which also served as the title of Yo La Tengo’s 2002 album).
A Question of Temperature‘s second half is given over to new Stamey songs, from goofy instrumentals to the Lou Reed-like “McCaughey Street (“Let’s Go Downtown”) to a Chuck Berry-styled social commentary called “Desperate Man.” Most of them are fairly minor works (although the ten-minute “McCaughey Street” is an excellent showcase for Yo La Tengo’s telepathic jamming skills). But their tossed-off ease is a breath of fresh air, especially compared to Stamey’s overcooked album of last year, Travels in the South.
Indie rock’s flavors of the month probably labor more on their B-sides than Stamey did on Temperature. But they haven’t got half as good a claim to the pure rock ‘n’ roll joys contained herein.