It’s been a turbulent time for fans of 2000s indie rock over the last decade. Many of the genre’s former giants have broken up or, worse, succumbed to the forces of cringe. Luckily for us all, Yeah Yeah Yeahs have taken the last nine years off, and they’ve been taking notes. While their former peers have been selling their souls for bad drawings of monkeys at NFT festivals (looking at you, James ‘Losing My Edge’ Murphy) or doing whatever it is Arcade Fire think they’re playing at these days, Karen O and co. mostly stayed quiet, popping up here and there to periodically play festivals and remind everyone how great ‘Maps’ is live.
Now though, the band have made their full return with their fifth album, Cool It Down and thank Karen O’s fringe, they’re in fine form. Clocking in at just eight tracks and little more than half an hour in length, Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ return from hiatus is punchy, tight and totally filler-free. Every moment on this record feels deliberate, every beat and note precision engineered for maximum impact.
Take opening track and lead single ‘Spitting off the Edge of the World’, featuring Perfume Genius. A languid, woozy climate crisis anthem that manages to capture the lingering sense of doom felt by so many – as I write this, the UK is poised to hit temperatures that it really shouldn’t be hitting – and the righteous and wholly necessary anger of Greta Thunberg’s generation towards the inaction of those who have squandered their chance to do something about it all. An added bonus: Mike Hadreas and Karen O sound so good together I’d be happy if they sang the rest of the album as duets.
Elsewhere, on tracks like ‘Wolf’ and ‘Burning’, guitarist and keys player Nick Zinner once again demonstrates his ability to capture all the sultry gloss of the ’80s without sounding dated. The synths stab like diamond-encrusted knives and every other guitar riff sounds like it should be soundtracking a shot of someone riding a motorbike through the desert. This is Yeah Yeah Yeahs in their full floor-filling ‘Heads Will Roll’, ‘Sacrilege’ pomp. Those seeking subtler moments won’t be disappointed either: ‘Blacktop’ is a post-punky sing-a-long that perfectly showcases the tender side of O’s every dynamic vocal range, while closer ‘Mars’ is almost lullaby-like in its simple loveliness.
Admittedly, Cool It Down is unlikely to change anyone’s mind about Yeah Yeah Yeahs – the sound broadly harks back the glittery new wave of It’s Blitz!. Yet this album doesn’t feel dated or nostalgic; instead, it comes across a band who know their lane and are speeding down it, pedal to the floor.