Returning to recording nine years after their last album, Mosquito, NYC’s Yeah Yeah Yeahs are back with a brief 8-track album acting as if nothing has really changed, and the dance floor is calling. Formed in 2000, the arty punk/dance rock trio – Karen O on vocals and keys, Nick Zinner on guitars and keys, and drummer Brian Chase – have always flirted with new wave nostalgia, tapping O’s vocal dexterity, and the music’s ability to provide a bridge between Chrissie Hynde and The Pretenders and Siouxsie and the Banshees, with clear nods to the pop song finesse of Debbie Harry and Blondie. Aside from the brief mention of O’s son in the brief spoken word album closer, “Mars,” YYYs’ music here reveals little relation to what’s going outside the dark, windowless dance clubs this music is designed for.
The opening track, “Spitting Off the Edge of the World,” written with Dave Sitek of TV on the Radio, and performed in a duet with the indie rock artist Perfume Genius, is the most grounded in the apocalyptic world of post-nuclear trauma. Given the song’s description of “Nowhere to run/Never had a chance,” I have to admit that spitting off the edge of the world sounds like an incredibly punk thing to do, and O and PG’s Michael Hadreas sing like it’s the end of the world. But evidently it was only a “Lovebomb,” and Karen O’s spoken words are a set up for a slow dance, so “come close.” If we’re in the post-nuclear world, O’s surviving with the “Fleez,” and they’re eating “nuts in the leaves” where they “dance to ESG.” That’s Emerald, Sapphire & Gold, a south Bronx funk outfit, that gets a second nod in the song’s lyric, referencing “Moody,” the band’s 1980’s dance club favorite.
“Burning,” the album’s second single mixes a dramatic vocal melody with cinematic synths from Karen O, and a brief crunchy guitar nod from Zinner, but the dance remix is sure to be killer. Similarly, “Wolf” romances the dangerous one with a “taste for Hell,” but here the rhythm is king, and the synths float and sting. There’s not a lot of substance here, but that doesn’t diminish the music’s magnetic pull. If it’s the end of the world, I guess we might as well dance.
“Spitting Off the Edge of the World” / “Burning” / “Wolf”
ARTISTS WITH SIMILAR FIRE
Blondie / Siouxsie & the Banshees / The Pretenders