Friday, June 03, 2005Y I love Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
The theme of nostalgia from the previous post got me thinking about my favourite years in music, and 2003 was the year that most of my current favourite bands really broke through. Of those bands, Yeah Yeah Yeahs were one of the only ones to go on to enjoy major commercial success (and start charging £20 a ticket!), while most of the others have been holed up in studios writing their follow up albums.
YYYs are an explosion of colour, energy, and emotion. Fronted by the bizarre and beautiful Karen O, they initially got more press for her outlandish and couture stage get up designed by Christian Joy, but once most people had had the chance to see them live, they knew there was more to them than just Karen spitting champagne over so-called O-clones and ripping DIY-couture frocks. There is an intensity to their live show, a fragility under the extroverted appearance. You realise that there is very little that you know about them; in person, all of the band members, especially Karen, are very introverted and shy. If you knew them outside of the YYYs context, it’d be hard to imagine the ferocity and commanding energy of their live show, but Nick’s mysteriousness and shyness can still be seen on stage, despite the often dark and harsh sounds that his guitar produces. There is also clearly a lot of love between Karen, Nick and Brian, which makes the overall product a lot more satisfying.
But it’s not just about the live show, it’s also very much about the music. YYYs are purveyors of some of the strongest dirty pop tunes of the last few years. Their debut 5-track EP has a 5/5 anthem hit ratio. Bang is the sleazy, dischordal dancefloor filler that set all of this into motion, Art Star is urgent and aggressive, Miles Away is the soundtrack to a life on the run, and Our Time is the calm after the storm, possibly one of my favourite songs of all time, the beauty of the imagery of “the stars under our feet” and Karen’s Brooklyn-meets-Alabama twang is simply unrivalled. There is a similar urgency running throughout their debut full-length, the ambiguously titled “Fever to Tell”. The album follows a similar harsh, urgent and intense, then becoming more sombre and sober towards the end trajectory. Whether this is intentional or not is another question, but both create an atmospheric journey, somewhat like a film. Karen once said of Y-control that they wrote it inspired by films rather than other bands, which is probably why YYYs don’t sound like any other band ever.
The end of the Fever to Tell journey is a much darker affair, though as ambiguous as ever. With most YYYs songs, there is little indication from the lyrics about what is being expressed. YYYs mean what you want them to mean and they are only who they want to be. When you start to question elements of “What are YYYs?” then you end up with even more questions than before – why all the Ys? What the shit is Y-Control supposed to mean? Is Nick Zinner really a vampire? Bam bam bam bam bam bam do do do do do? Why does Karen like half-eating food and then spitting it out? Why why why? Y Y Y? But I don’t think it really matters, the YYYs, to me, symbolise freedom and expression, and thereby the freedom to interpret their expression as you wish. What is undeniable is their sheer brilliance. Bring on the second album!