If most musicians decided to record an album of songs based on supermarket-tabloid headlines, the result would be a failed novelty-recording joke. Jad Fair and Yo La Tengo, however, choose to interpret such subjects as "Retired Grocer Constructs Tiny Mount Rushmore Entirely Out Of Cheese" and "Ohio Town Saved From Killer Bees By Hungry Vampire Bats" with the sensitivity and respect they deserve. Not everyone will appreciate, or even understand, the thoughtfulness and compassion Fair puts into these lyrics, but he finds the pathos in these Weekly World News stories. The grocer in question wasn't adjusting well to retirement, to hear Fair tell it, and was just lonely for food in bulk; it's an odd and oddly moving little story. The intricately subdued music of Yo La Tengo is the perfect accompaniment for these 22 naive little dramas, not calling attention to itself yet never quite disappearing behind the weird, half-sung, half-narrated lyrics. Strange But True is an odd, happy little curiosity, well worth the time of the more cerebral listener. And, as a bonus, there are three monkey-related tracks: the inspiring "Helpful Monkey Wallpapers Entire Home," the uplifting "Retired Woman Starts New Career In Monkey Fashions," and the incomparable "Minnesota Man Claims Monkey Bowled Perfect Game." Splendid!
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