Yeah Yeah Yeahs — Karen O. (vocals), Nick Zinner (keys, guitar, drum machine, bass) and Brian Chase (drums) — released their long-awaited and highly-anticipated fifth album Cool It Down earlier this year through Secretly Canadian. The eight-song album is an expert distillation of the band’s gifts that will impel the listener to move, cry, and listen closely.
“To all who have waited, our dear fans, thank you, our fever to tell has returned, and writing these songs came with its fair share of chills, tears, and euphoria when the pain lifts and truth is revealed,” Yeah Yeah Yeah’s Karen O wrote in a statement to the band’s fans. “Don’t have to tell you how much we’ve been going through in the last nine years since our last record, because you’ve been going through it too, and we love you and we see you, and we hope you feel the feels from the music we’ve made. No shying away from the feels, or backing down from what’s been gripping all of us these days. So yes we’ve taken our time, happy to report when it’s ready it really does just flow out.”
“The record is called Cool It Down which is snagged from a lesser known Velvet Underground song. I told Alex Prager whose photo graces our record cover that her image speaks to sweeping themes in the music and sums up how I, Karen, feel existentially in these times! But there’s always more to the story. . . “
Cool It Down‘s first single, the Dave Sitek-produced “Spitting Off the Edge of the World,” featuring Perfume Genius is a slow-burning and cathartic power ballad centered around glistening and droning synths, Chase’s thunderous drumming, a distortion-driven guitar solo by Zinner, arena rock friendly hooks paired with the lush interplay between Karen O’s and Perfume Genius imitable vocals. Sonically “Spiting Off The Edge of the World” to my ears sounds like a slick yet subtle synthesis of Show Your Bones and It’s Blitz! — and as a result, the song is simultaneously urgent yet an exercise in restraint.
Lyrically, the song reflects on the current state of the environment, and the need for honesty about the damage we’re inflicting on the Earth. “I see the younger generations staring down this threat, and they’re standing on the edge of a precipice, confronting what’s coming with anger and defiant,” Yeah Yeah Yeah’s Karen O explains. “It’s galvanizing and there’s hope there.”
The album’s second single., the Andrew Wyatt-produced “Burning” is a dance floor anthem built over a twinkling piano loop inspired by The Four Seasons’ “Beggin’” and features Zinner’s fiery guitar sprawl, thumping beats, Chase’s funky drum patterns pared with Karen O’s imitable croons and shouts. The song captures the Karen O being engulfed in the tumult and unrest of Los Angeles in 2020 — with fire and smoke bearing down on the city and everything its in path. Sonically, the song sounds like a subtle refinement of It’s Blitz!-era YYYs that nods at Fever to Tell.
“Back when I was 19 living in the East Village, one night a roommate dragged me out of the apartment for an impromptu drink across the street,” Karen O writes. “I left a votive candle burning on a plastic yaffa block which, in my absence set flame to my room. Within an hour and-a half of having one drink down the block, firefighters had come and gone extinguishing the fire. I came home to find that a natural disaster had occurred (to my room) and most of my stuff, lost in the flames. All electronic goods were melted and demolished like my laptop, cameras etc. but oddly enough the items that held the most sentimental value remained intact like sketchbooks, a favorite sweater with hearts across the chest, and photographs. I had photos of my parents in their youth where the fire burnt around the two of them as if there was some intangible force field protecting them, many photos like that, mysteriously leaving the beloved subjects untouched.”
If the world is on fire I hope the most beloved stay protected and that we do all we can to protect what we cherish most in this life. ‘Burning’ is a song about that feeling, smoke signals for the soul. Begging to cool it down, just doing it the best we know how. Nick and I nodded to Frankie Valli’s ‘Begging’, with the line ‘oooh lay your red hand on me baby.’ We’ve cut a rug to many a soulful sixties bangers in our day, it was in our DNA by the time we wrote ‘Burning’.”
Cool It Down‘s third and latest single “Wolf” is a pulsating, It’s Blitz!-meets-Giorgio Moroder-like club banger centered around glistening synth arpeggios, thumping four-on-the-floor paired with Karen O’s imitable delivery expressing yearning vulnerability, longing, and feral lust within the turn of a phrase.
Directed by Allie Avital, the accompanying video stars Severance‘s Britt Lower as a bored and frustrated wife, who rediscovers the wild within — and without. Lower’s performance in which we see her quickly move from bored, frustrated and hemmed in to completely wild — and with teeth bared sees her carrying the emotional weight of the video.
“It was our great fortune to collaborate with the powerhouses Allie and Brit on this video for ‘Wolf.’ Allie casts a spell with the gorgeous world she weaves — always with teeth that bite, and Brit embodies all the contradictions in the themes of ‘Wolf,’ so enamored with her performance that’s got as much heaven as it does hell,” Karen O. says of the accompanying video. “We were beside ourselves with excitement when Allie cast Brit as the lead in the video, YYYs are serious nerds for Severance, what luck when the stars align.”
“’Wolf’ has so much narrative built into the lyrics, and it was such a dream to delve into these themes of hunger, connection, and wildness,” Allie Avital says. “Britt Lower and I used a movement-based technique to play with the nuances of this character as she seeks various forms of connection and moves from feeling trapped to wild to rediscovering a new form of intimacy with her husband. As a director, it’s rare to find such open minded artists like Karen, Nick, and Brian and I’m so grateful they put so much trust in our creative process.”
“When I heard the title of the song and description of the role were both ‘WOLF’ it was a full body ‘yes.’ To get to work on a story about a woman discovering the wild within and without was a dream. And to do so alongside legend Karen O….I mean, I’m speechless,” Britt Lower says.