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Cool It Down finds Yeah Yeah Yeahs as confrontational as ever

"Cool It Down"

Release date: 30 September 2022
Yeahyeahyeahs coolitdown art
26 September 2022, 00:00 Written by Alex Nguyen

After nearly a decade-long hiatus, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs return with Cool It Down, a sonic departure from their days in the New York garage rock revival scene.

It’s an essential change as their brand of ferocious indie rock has largely faded from the mainstream. The record shares a name with a song off The Velvet Underground’s Loaded, but while the classic art rock track is quite straightforward in detailing a night spent with "Miss Linda Lee," the Yeah Yeah Yeahs new album is expansive in its exploration of environmental destruction, the desire for connection after forced isolation, and the weight young people carry to face the mistakes of past generations. The album is an attempt to lower the temperature of a chaotic world on fire – befitting an experienced rock band that has reckoned with society’s transformation since their previous 2013 release, Mosquito.

Lyrically, Yeah Yeah Yeahs have evolved to keep up with current anxieties. On “Different Today”, vocalist Karen Orzolek – aka Karen O – muses, “Oh how the world keeps on spinning / It goes spinning out of control.” Lead single “Spitting Off the Edge of the World” sees the band defiant while peering down a seemingly infinite chasm because they “never had no chance / nowhere to hide.” Despite the fear of the collapsing world that her son was born into, there is a promising amount of hope here as Orzolek sees the future generation as strong enough to right society's ills.

Trading out their usual heart-on-sleeve aesthetics for a more deliberate approach, the band loses none of its original intimacy. “Lovebomb” longingly beckons with the words “come close / closer now” while “Burning” nods to '60s pop soul and Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons’ “Beggin’” with the line, “Ooh / Lay your red hand on me, baby.”

There are also few remnants of the group’s demon-powered indie rock soundscape. “Fleez” is the closest the band comes to their past material with a playful dance-punk beat that reworks ESG’s “Moody (Spaced Out)”. Orchestral synths populate the entire album but are used in a multifaceted manner, portraying a wide array of moods. They appear shimmering on “Lovebomb”, punchy and powerful on “Wolf”, and bright and twinkling on “Different Today”. Orzolek’s vocals are mostly strong throughout, especially on “Burning”, where she matches the intensity of the track’s showy production. Occasionally it works less well, such as on “Wolf”, where her voice is largely drowned out by the booming, symphonic synths. “Spitting Off the Edge of the World”, featuring Perfume Genius, is the highlight of the record as a slow-moving, majestic ballad with its powerful emotional releases delivering on every iteration of the chorus.

With eight songs at 32 minutes, Cool It Down is Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ shortest album to date. This leaves it little room to meander in tracks like "Blacktop", which is admirable in its sensitivity but let down by its rather directionless backing instrumentation. Although they never reach the potency of "Maps" or the danceability of "Heads Will Roll", the thematic density of the record marks a level of urgency that rivals the band's best work. It’s a welcome sight to see a group that has reached 20 years to continue to reinvent itself. Cool It Down is not only timely but a necessary album in evaluating the feelings of the present and looking ahead towards an uncertain future.

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