Back in 2005, hearing Yeah Yeah Yeah’s ‘Date with the Night’ and the Arctic Monkey’s ‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor’ would have been a huge highlight of a night out. I loved the Arctic’s debut album, but was less sold on the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s full-length efforts. Fast forward to today and both these artists who, for me, will always be inextricably linked with the era of skinny jeans and 50p a bottle of Castlemaine 4X, are releasing new albums. But times, like the price of beer and width of jean, have changed: only one of the new albums by these artists is getting me excited in 2022. And that album is Yeah Yeah Yeah’s Cool It Down.
But wait. Is it even an album at all? As we moved out of the pandemic the albums/mixtapes/projects/long EPs/collections of music with an identity crisis that were everywhere at one point, seemed to have faded away to be replaced but proper albums again. With just eight songs and a 30 minute run time, Yeah Yeah Yeahs are flirting with the return of this phenomenon on Cool It Down. Fortunately this album does feel complete and cohesive. Still, making a short album is a dangerous game. Two average songs on a thirteen track record will barely register. Two bad songs out of eight is a whole one quarter bad. It’s risky. They’re running that risk, and running it well. There’s bags of Yeah Yeah Yeahs energy and Cool It Down has the structure and sequencing of a proper album – it most certainly isn’t just a bunch of songs thrown together.
Cool It Down, is influenced in large parts by 90s house. Take the ‘Rhythm is a Dancer’ adjacent riff from ‘Wolf’ and the piano breaks on ‘Burning’ as examples. ‘Burning’ gets heavy in the middle but its roots are in dance. There is more than simply four to the floor beats and hammered piano chords on offer though. Cool It Down begins in a far more considered way. Both ‘Spitting off the Edge of the World’ and ‘Lovebomb’ are slow and synth-laden. And the middle section of the album is a reminder of how devastatingly loud and explosive Yeah Yeah Yeahs can be at their heaviest. ‘Fleez’ is an entertaining nod to ESG’s ‘Moody’ with added distorted bassline edge. Both you and these songs will benefit if you listen to them turned up really loud, and they’re super catchy to boot.
If it hadn’t already then, the pretence of The Yeah Yeah Yeahs being an indie rock three piece has now been fully abandoned. The indie rock band attitude is still there, and the video for ‘Spitting off the Edge of the World’ serves as a timely reminder of what an incredible frontwoman Karen O (still) is. Instead, the changes are sonic ones. But when they’ve gone for catchy over other adjectives like, say, substance it doesn’t feel like a trade-off. This is the music they want to make now. As Karen sings at her most reflective on the album ‘I feel different today, different today, different today, I do’. And nearly ten years since their last LP, we should by no means be expecting more of the same.
Cool It Down is a supremely enjoyable if not groundbreaking comeback. Yet surprisingly, it might be their best album, certainly in terms of end to end consistency. Back in those mid-00s dancefloor days, Yeah Yeah Yeahs had plenty of highs in terms of the big singles, but across the albums as whole pieces of work, they simply didn’t deliver in the same way for me as they are now. Other 00s bands making a comeback this year have no chance of moving me in the same way.
Words by James Spearing