Too long ago and for far too short of a time, I lived in New York City. The best nights were the ones where you and a friend would say, “Let’s just get one drink.” Then, before you knew it, you’d be watching the sun rise on a Lower East Side penthouse balcony, sipping champagne at a party full of artists, drag queens, rockers, suits, actors, and more.
If a band were playing that party, I imagine it would’ve been the Yeah Yeah Yeahs (@YYYs).
Formed in NYC in 2000, the indie and industry face are now on their fourth studio album, Mosquito. The NYC angle is key with this band. If you haven’t been to Manhattan, go! Find somewhere tiny and cheap to stay in Soho and start walking. Airbnb should do the trick before it’s outright banned there.
In New York, you can see it all and do it all. Kindred spirits find deep connections. Lives are changed. New trends are born. Inspiration is down every alley.
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs are the product of New York; timing, artistry, and a desire to be different yet relevant.
If you’re not familiar with them, they’re fronted by Karen O., known almost as much for her fashion sense as for her singing, which, if I had to describe, I’d say sounds like an angel sliding along the edge of a straight razor.
Nick Zinner’s prowess on guitar is matched only by his skill as a photographer. And drummer Brian Chase was named the fiftieth best drummer of all time by Gigwise.
All three band members are known for their many collaborations with other groups, but are certainly dedicated to their core YYYs by crafting a new album every three years. They are a band here to make an impact but also to stay relevant.
If you want to check them out, hit Echo Beach on July 1 in Toronto.
As for Mosquito, it rings true to their trashy glam-punk-rock NYC sound. The title track, ‘Mosquito’, has the organic rock-equivalent of a mosquito buzzing around your ear, but you won’t want to slap this one away. With a fast-paced jungle bongo beat bringing you in, and the whisper/yelp of Karen O., the song can easily be about the life of a mosquito, or equally about the life of any Greenwich Village denzien you may bump into in the wee hours of the night.
“Mosquito sing, Mosquito cry, Mosquito live, Mosquito die, Mosquito land, On your neck, Mosquito drink, Whatever’s left.” Check out the lyrics and see if you can relate to the life of a ‘Mosquito’.
The lead-off track ‘Sacrilege’, the single they passed around to radio and various Late Show appearances, is a big, bold, brassy way to get things going. What starts as a quiet, stripped down song builds and builds until a full choir rips it away from the band and delivers a smash of an ending. If I didn’t tell you about it you wouldn’t see it coming.
‘Subway’ though. I love ‘Subway’. A haunting song about fleeting moments of love lost on the metro line. Perhaps that second of eye contact, or a subtle touch where maybe that was the soul meant for you. But, you didn’t make it to the car on time. The brilliant part comes for the rickety-clack sound of a subway softly going by as the drumline. There’s something about the sound of a train to forge the essence of loneliness, and ‘Subway’ has that quality so strongly that you’ll easily be able to sense her anguish.
‘Under the Earth’ follows the mood and theme of love lost. You can’t mistake “Twelve times put a hex on you,” followed by “Down, down under the earth goes another lover.”
‘Area 52’ comes out loud with distortion all over the song, instruments and voice alike. It’s a kick-in-the-pants song about begging to be taken hostage by aliens to join them on the cosmic adventure. Remember how awesome I said Nick and Brian were with their instruments? Wait ’til you hear a guitar and drums sound like spaceships and laser beams battling it out!
So, with all these songs about lost love, sucking souls, and alien buggery, how do you end it all?
With a love song, of course.
‘Wedding Song’ is one of those songs that catches your attention and makes you stop and listen. Feeling wistful? This is the song for you. Feeling in love? This one. Need a breather from the powerful rock of Mosquito? Here you go.
Now go hit repeat.
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ latest is one of those rare albums where you’ll fall for the whole thing. You’ll be able to select it all, hit play, and disappear back into whatever it was you were doing. No skipping of songs, no loss to the mesmerizing tones, nothing but a welcome trip to the edge of the art scene in hometown NYC.
Check out the Yeah Yeah Yeahs for yourself.