Yeah Yeah Yeahs
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The girls wanna kiss her, the boys wanna be a fifth as cool as her. Onlookers gaze at the spiky leather jacket atop Japanese cloth and neon danglies. We look on in awe as she yoga poses whilst deep-throatin' a mic. Meanwhile, the blow-up eyes sway and the flutter-flying clouds of confetti stick to sweaty backs 'n' necks 'n' faces. Your usual Monday night out, this is not.
Stage right, the atonal, sub-atomic, uniquely genius noizes of Nick Zinner try to steal the show. The attention wrestling match is repeatedly won by the woman no-one can take their eyes off. From the outset, seemingly nothing in the universe will obscure the twirling, sometimes face shrouded, bom-bom-bom-BAH-BAH dum-num-nu-num-nooming spectacle that is Karen O. At times, as bedroom anthem follows headphones favourite which begets indie-club hit, it's the songs that distract from our post-anti hero poster girl. Songs, proper songs, songs you can scream along to like 'Pin' or sweetly coo-to like 'Gold Lion'. Songs like 'Zero', that the mere mention of the title has you humming the 'yeh-er ah zerrr-oh' hook.
When Karen sings "I'm bigger than the sound" ('Cheated Hearts') there's a self-aware smirk before she sways and spins, beaming with childish joy and art-cool. See her for what you want her to be: the reassembled dismembered goth, a fashion nerd, Chrissie Hynde from behind and no-one but Karen O in silhouette; bouncing, punching, tumbling... Every iconic yet contrary motion seems as knowing as it does natural and that's what makes her a true star. It's that conflicting mixture of 'is she in control or bonkers?', totally losing her shit before our eyes - that's what sucks us in. The idea she could be one of us punkedly stepping up on stage conflicts with the fact she's something so far removed from anything we could ever be. Yet, pin her down and she'll shape shift, yelling "BRIIXXXXTONN!!!!" or trip over a monitor. That's tripping, alighting the stage, having paraded her way slowly through the photo pit throwing the mic in the front row's faces as they, one by one, sing the 'huh-ooohee woo-ooh-ooh' of 'Cheated Hearts', which of course, results in tingles a-go-go.
Zeitgeist is such an overused word, especially as decades come to an end, but few Noughties bands have truly created a wake for others to try to ride. Sure, their friends Liars, Metric and Les Savy Fav have scorched new ground and dove head first into that grey area where popular culture meets art. Few acts have embodied the creative thrust of Nu New York, re-invented the possibilities of guitar-pop for dance floors or been untouchable icons of style. One minute they're on Jonathan Ross, the next they're in high-brow fashion mags. They take time off to produce tracks for kraut-loving goths, play in metal bands or, yuhknow, make one of the most picture perfect soundtracks you'll ever hear, for Spike Jonze's kid flick Where the Wild Things Are. Whilst the Strokes may have outshone them in the early days, Yeah Yeah Yeahs have constantly evolved, enthralled and inspired, which is something that can be said of very few acts, ever.
Tonight, a stripped down version of 'Maps' utterly steals the show, every "Wait! They don't love you like I love you" is met with a whispered-shout of "like I love you" from 90% of the packed out Academy crowd. 'Heads Will Roll' then rips the roof off with its crunching guitars and spazzy, skittering, clutterous drums... surely that's the apex of any set? Then, another ship sails and 'Y Control' detonates, erupts with wuh-uh-OHs and makes way for 'Date With the Night' which sends the crowd into a delirious shuddering mess! Just as you think things can't be bettered, they shimmy off stage, Nick taking pictures and Brian ceremoniously throwing his battered drum sticks into the 12th row. A breathless Brixton crowd bashes its palms together, unsure whether what they just saw has sunk in.
Everything fits together tonight the beneath the glittering Y Y Y umbrella. Any doubts that a progression/departure from the squally art-punk noize that embodied the fast-paced sprawl of New York to their new synths 'n' orchestra-enhanced 'space-pop' sound are met with incredibly defined self-assured sense of self that congeals and permeates from the heart of every track. If anything, the new tracks - the bewitching 'Skeletons' especially (complete with a stage covering of dry ice!) - rather than aliens drifting away from their roots, they are the giddy eyes looking down from space, trying to spot their houses. It's a leap, rather than tectonic shift and it coheres perfectly.
The incongruous "Laaaahhhndaaahhn!!!" 'tween songs a la Gene Simmons wears a little thin and that's probably the only bad thing I can say about one of the gigs of the year. Pretty much everything is a ying to a yang within the claustro-euphoric, indie-dance-floor-art-noise-pop otherworldly world that is the confusingly imperfect land of Nick, Brian and Karen (tonight with added Dave Pajo!). Yeah, I guess you could say tonight, on the face of it, was just a bunch of people stood on stage making a melodious racket, yet somehow, it was something which reached from the beyond, pulled a room full of dreamers together and touched us all, appropriately.
Heads Will Roll
Date with the Night
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- In Photos: Yeah Yeah Yeahs @ Manchester Apollo
- In Photos: ATP - I'll Be Your Mirror @ Alexandra Palace, London
- I'll Be Your Mirror Yeah Yeah Yeahs: the DiS review
- DiS Digest: April 2013's Must-Hear Album, Top Tracks, Most Read + Playlist
- Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Mosquito
- Drowned In Film #2
- Playlist: DiS Community's Favourite Songs of the 1st Quarter of 2013