Yeah Yeah Yeahs
There once was a time when a bass was considered rhythmically integral in Rock. But then again, except for a few rare exceptions, bass players tend be anonymous musicians - just another mouth to feed on the road. They've become expendable.
Following in White Stripes' footsteps, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs were also bass free. This leanness, with just guitarist Nick Zinner and drummer Brian Chase, resulted in a raw garage Rock sound.
Singer Karen O's (Ozolek) vocal and stage antics made her impossible to ignore. Prone to dumping beer all over herself while performing, Karen O's style owed at least something to Wendy O. Williams and Iggy Pop. On "Date With The Night" from the group's '03 release "Fever To Tell," Karen O oscillated between control and oblivion with great effectiveness.
In '02, Yeah Yeah Yeahs released a self-title five song EP to much acclaim and hype - it was warranted. "Fever To Tell," their first full-length effort followed. Like so many bands they absorbed a variety of styles and attitudes and churned them out at will. But the overriding mood was that of an outsider blasting their way in - even if they weren't sure where "in" was.
Following extensive touring, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs issued "Show Your Bones" in '06. The next summer saw the release of the five-song EP "Is Is" containing the title track, "Rockers Too Shallow" and "Kiss Kiss."
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs played '07's Modern Sky Festival in Beijing. That had to have been a culture shock for all parties.
"09's "The Blitz," featuring the single, "Zero," had its album release date pushed up after the set was leaked online. Though the band claimed the album was in a different direction they wanted it to "still sound like Yeah Yeah Yeahs." That wasn't a concern with Karen O's next project.
Having already contributed to the "Jackass 2" and "I'm Not There" soundtracks, Karen O landed a bigger musical role in '09's Where The Wild Things Are, a film directed by ex-boyfriend Spike Jonze, and based on the Maurice Sendak classic.
The soundtrack was credited to Karen O And The Kids - namely Brian Cox (Deerhunter), Brian Chase and Nick Zinner (Yeah Yeah Yeahs), Dean Fertita (Queens Of The Stone Age, The Dead Weather) and Jack Lawrence (The Dead Weather, The Raconteurs), among others.
After taking a four-year break, the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs returned with "Mosquito." The '13 set was primarily recorded at Sonic Ranch in Tornilla, TX and produced by TV On The Radio's Dave Sitek and Nick Launay.
Sitek had a long production history with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs ("Fever To Tell," "Show Your Bones" and "It's Blitz!") while Launay co-produced "It's Blitz!" and worked with Arcade Fire, and Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds. His recording philosophy seemed a perfect fit for the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs.
"I always work in studios where the whole band can be in the same room looking at each other," said Launay in an interview with Mix Magazine. "The main point is to have fun and to basically capture that band at that point in their life doing the absolute best performance of that song.
"We would love for this music ("Mosquito") to make our fans feeeeel (sic) something - whatever that may be," said Karen O in a statement. "(The album) was the rope ladder thrown down into the ditch for us to climb up and dust ourselves off. We're excited to share the good vibes."
On her own, Karen O co-wrote "Moon Song" with director Spike Jonze for his movie "Her" and issued her solo debut album, "Crush Songs." The '14 release, recorded a few years earlier, came out on Julian Casablancas's (The Strokes) Cult Records.
2003 Fever To Tell
2004 Show Your Bones
2009 It's Blitz!
The basic hard-charging garage appeal of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs is undeniable. "Fever To Tell" is a Rocker opening with the chord-driven "Rich" and containing little gems like the aforementioned "Date With The Night" and "Black Tongue." But it was the evocative "Maps" that resonated.
Zinner and Chase provide the forward thrust while Karen O climbs over the top. The group's EP is also worth owning. The only song that drags is the last track "Our Time." The others deliver.
For bands coming off a successful album, like "Fever To Tell," there's the temptation to recreate that effort. But that usually leads to diminished results. First, the follow-up is never as good because the best ideas were used on its predecessor. Second, the public, who found the original sound so captivating, now begin to grow tired of it. A smart group will try to build on past success, not replicate it. That's exactly what the Yeah Yeah Yeahs did on "Show Your Bones."
Avoiding both the temptation to polish or gloss their sound, though they incorporate sampling and keyboards, or rough it up in an attempt to show they are still "relevant" and uncompromised, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, back off their frantic energy, especially Karen O, to deliver an intriguing album.
The set opens with the quirky but appealing "Gold Lion." Acoustic guitars are in the mix but it's the keyboards that give the song its off-kilter feel. "Way Out Fancy" is another strong track. Later on, Mysteries" proves to be a charming pop excursion while "The Sweets" plies a captivating shuffle beat.
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs blast through "Is Is." "Rockers Too Shallow" nearly unravels but "Kiss Kiss" is what they do best.
"It almost feels like a John Hughes '80s movie," said Karen O of "The Blitz." No kidding. For this outing the Yeah Yeah Yeahs lose the guitar and drench the songs in synthesizers. It's kind of like Karen O fronting Joy Division or a more energetic and loose Kraftwerk (sans the gloom). That's it's a bit of a shock.
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs still infuse their songs with a kind of irrepressible theatrics and that counts for a lot. About the only real clunker is the grating piano ballad "Runaway." Even so, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs - and their audience - are better served by the bare-bones guitar/drums/vocals of previous efforts.
"Mosquito" adheres to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs performance art template. From the sparse "Sacrilege" to the Power Pop Punk title track to the noisy B-52s inspired "Area 52," they create an entertaining din.
The secret to Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck was that they were kid's cartoons with jokes smart enough for adults. That approach is mimicked on the "Where The Wild Things Are" soundtrack, which is essentially a children's album.
There are joyful songs and somber ones, all designed to compliment what's on the screen. The mostly acoustic album is led by the sing-a-long pop song, "All Is Love." Only "Capsize" comes anywhere close to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The set doesn't have a "Can You Feel The Love Tonight" and that's probably for the better. It's very low-key and entertaining without being cutesy or condescending.