Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Cool It Down” Is An Exhilarating But Unhurried Comeback

The audacity, of being an artist who waits almost a decade to release a project – to be absent from the conversation for that long. The scrolling news cycles, the social feeds left to rot on the vine. The refusal to chase the currency of constant and insistent relevance. It’s shocking these days. And when that artist is, say, a beloved rock band who has demonstrated near-pathological urges – screaming the most moving choruses, probing the deepest melancholy and raciest elation, spraying beer in your face and leave you begging – it’s even louder emptiness.

But when you’ve gained confidence in an artist’s vitality—when you think they’ve spent a silence organizing, not idling—it can be rewarding to follow their lead. It is an even rarer confidence that a creator can inspire; you don’t see it often. by Richard Linklater Before the trilogy comes to mind – three movies that each waited nine years between releases, stumbling upon its talkative heroes Celine and Jesse at pivotal moments in their romance, their conversations still sparking. In the third part, Before midnight, Celine marvels at the weirdness of having a conversation with Jesse “about something other than the schedule, the food, the job,” as they stroll through some incredibly photogenic Greek ruins — but, given the our investment in them already, we’re sure these characters (and the creatives behind the camera) haven’t spent the last few years entirely mired in domestic boredom; their sharp minds deliberated, stirred, built towards this substantial dialogue. And while we may have been eager to reunite with them, really, we wouldn’t have wanted to listen to them any sooner.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs waited nine years, too, before releasing his fifth album, cool it down. And though each member of the trio has kept busy with various all-consuming projects, from chamber pop albums to avant-garde jazz labels to children, this sabbatical has clearly compiled a pressure that they are now releasing, thoughtfully and after careful personal examination. cool it down is a short, thorny record that confronts environmental ruin and isolation in the age of pandemic, ending with a hope that seems to have taken all the time it takes to achieve it. To those who missed the yelping, yelping delirium of the mics of the art-punk band’s 2003 debut, Fever to say, and its legendary gigs: while the band can clearly still harness that energy on stage, there are no glitter-smeared bangers here. But for those who have followed its fearless evolution — its growing embrace of silky production and meditative stillness, through which the band grew as so many other early 2000s darlings faltered — it’s both an intuitive and exhilarating step forward.

As New York hedonism once pervaded Yeah Yeah Yeahs, so now does Los Angeles pathos. This is where the ever fascinating singer Karen O now lives, along with all the other people you’ve torn Misshapes with. (Drummer Brian Chase still lives in New York and guitarist Nick Zinner divides his time between the two cities; their long loyalty to ever-sanitizing New York is quietly reassuring, like a restaurant with peeling linoleum and lukewarm omelettes wedged between markets bio.) also where the band partially recorded the album, shortly after a season of wildfires that left red skies and ash rain. “It was apocalyptic,” said Karen O Vulture. “It really seeps into your psyche, especially after a year of total dystopia from the pandemic.” This angst is explicit on the lead ballad “Spitting Off the Edge of the World,” which laments the climate crisis while raising its fists with the young rebels confronting its encroachment – children throwing themselves into the void, middle fingers raised up. to the collapse they inherited – into big, cinematic bands of synths and disturbing percussion. Karen O’s moan-filled braids with Perfume Genius’ vivid shivers (her delivery of “she’s melting houses of gold” is particularly agonizing), and together they slowly build through that pain, eventually embracing an aura of defiance. , a faith in the path of resistance. What makes someone renewed for a long fight ahead, after years of despair? Perhaps more focused time with loved ones; perhaps the institutions finally seem to bow to the public uproar. Or perhaps simply enduring the natural timeline of grief, unmoved by our desires that it hastens.

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cool it down revels in the constant synths and the dark, patient soundscapes they evoke. On “Lovebomb,” producer Dave Sitek stacks them in pensive, soaring hues, evoking palm trees slowly catching sunlight after warm sea nights; Karen O’s crater gasps quickly settle into a sort of half-spoken tone, adding an eerie breeze. The songs are remarkably calm and nonchalant, ready to mutate in ways the band has never explored before: on “Wolf”, around lyrics that can dive deep into Duran Duran (not as hard as they leaned formerly on LL Cool J, but not far off), the keys start in an acerbic and meandering way à la M83 Quick, we’re dreaming, blossoming chillingly into a densely orchestrated New Wave sprawl, ready to take inspiration from a Hollywood car chase. (If Keanu Reeves takes a wrong turn and the scene lasts long, they can add the sinister piano opus “Burning,” the album’s spiritual sequel to “Sacrilege,” 2013’s explosive centerpiece. Mosquito.)

Karen O pierced the testosterone of early 2000s New York with her ecstatic howl, which was quite a spectacle like her edgy antics on stage, doping dangerously against Zinner’s wasp riffs and Chase’s swingy cadences. (It’s even more remarkable now to think how fearless Karen O was then, as an Asian American woman in a music scene utterly devoid of them, at a time when Pinkerton was yet another scripture for neckbeards assessing our humanity. Her impact cannot be overstated, and it’s nice to see her return, queen, to a rock scene now filled with diverse young artists for whom she helped open doors.) But her secret weapon has always been her singing voice; when it turns to delivering nursery rhymes, it’s an instrument in its own right, playful yet heartfelt. He gets a lot of air time on cool it down, starting with “Fleez,” the band’s loudest dance track; she sings in a cheerful, familiar falsetto over a crisp bass and a warbling electropop chorus that pirouettes in an eerie, quiet pressure – never truly melodically resolving, refusing to explode into the kind of big, cathartic chorus Yeah Yeah Yeahs could offer. in his sleep. Sounds like a path the band wouldn’t have considered before – why would they, with hooks like “Heads Will Roll” and “Y Control” in their back pockets? – and therefore, it is strangely piercing.

Karen O is equally upbeat on “Different Today,” the record’s emotional double peak alongside “Spitting” and the single’s symmetrical balance of furious bravery; she revels in the grace of connection, of the harmonies to be heard in the world that always revolves around her. As she delicately sings “I feel different today, different today / Different today about you,” atop Zinner and Chase’s synth-pop pulse that practically spits glitter, her peace is attractive; it feels hard-earned, the kind you can’t reach without, inexplicably, surviving something that should have consumed you. (Or so I hope? All I know is that walking through East Village the other day, I passed a tequila bar I used to frequent a dozen years ago, when they were constantly playing “Zero” from the band and I once almost smashed the windows to the ground facing the first one at 3 a.m. Now, seeing my pregnant belly bulging in her indifferent panes, it seemed miraculous that we are both still intact.)

cool it down ends with “Mars,” a sweet little flash of naturalistic poetry, partially taken from a conversation Karen O shared with her son. What does the sunset look like, she asks him? “‘Mars,’ he replied / With a gleam in his eye.” Obviously, he inherited his mother’s romantic brilliance; the coming darkness might be frightening for the child, but instead he sees the potential for a new world. May we all find such a far-sighted gaze to carry us forward – over the next few weeks, months or nine years. Some things are clearly worth the wait.

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