#377: Fever To Tell, Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Another one I was obsessed with in high school. I had this one burned onto a CD, which I realize makes me sound old. (The reality is I just had an old car.) Some of the first songs I ever learned on the electric guitar were Yeah Yeah Yeahs songs. “Phenomena” off Show Your Bones was my favorite.
Karen O & Co. Started this band while students in NYC. (Fun fact, they shared a lot with Metric. “Help, I’m Alive” anyone?) Karen O is a modern day Patti Smith. I loved the revelation that she was a relatively sweet child: “It’s almost embarrassing how well-behaved I was, which is probably why I do things like spit water on myself onstage as an adult.” The former-good-girl, current-wild-child vibes are strong, with her literal roar on opener “Rich” and her quick devolution to madness on “Tick.” Tickticktickticktick! she shrieks, with increasing manic energy.
O shares songwriting credits with both of her bandmates, but I kind of suspect she’s the one behind the lyrics, many of which deal with sex and love from a distinctly female perspective. Part of the reason I was so drawn to them as a teen was because she was so sexual that she kind of scared the crap out of me. She has a “Man” makes her want to kill. She found a “Black Tongue” in a mortuary. She has a sexual encounter in “Cold Light,” then says We’re like a sister and a brother, which, ahhh! No! I also admire the controversial video for “Y Control,” which features children flipping off the camera, carting around a dead dog, and miming acts of self-harm. MTV would only air it with a disclaimer from director Spike Jonze. If MTV hates your video, you might be doing something right.
The YYYs are a trio, and my second-favorite is guitarist Nick Zinner, who’s hair is an art piece in and of itself. Zinner is a fricking force. “Date With The Night” starts off crisp and strong and then devolves, with Zinner never losing control. He’s staccato-sharp on “Pin,” playing off of O’s penchant for onomatopoia. And the post-chorus on “No No No” is ecstatic. (Fun fact, he’s also an accomplished photographer.)
It’s funny that they’re such a loudass, scary punk band, because their slower songs tend to be their hits. See “Maps,” where Zinner tremolos his way to tenderness, soundtracking O literally crying over her boyfriend Angus Andrews (from the Liars). “Modern Romance” is an understated heartbreaker: I was wrong/ It never lasts. Thank god “Poor Song” closes the album, because while it’s quiet, it’s sweet and hopeful. Cool kids DO belong together.
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs went on hiatus after their 2013 album Mosquito was released. Then they didn’t put out music again until last year. I’ve yet to listen to Cool It Down, but I will be doing so after reminding myself how obsessed I once was with them. Also I’ll be relearning “Phenomena.”
Okay One More Thing: Karen O wrote a song for Jackass 2???