The happy untainted rush of excitement they feel every time they get onstage seems to be more than they ever dreamed of
Hysterical praise of Yeah Yeah Yeahs‘ big-hearted punk-art rock shows may be a trifle tiresome by now – but if you’re hoping for anything else, you may as well stop reading. Giddy, gutsy, sexy and casually uncontrived, YYY‘s are fast becoming the ultimate party band. And, as Karen O lustily maintains in ‘Bang’, “….the bigger, the better”.
Less than a year ago, Karen Ohm was giggling nervously through scattershot gigs in mouse-hole venues. Now, she’s the quiver-voiced female rock star we’ve been waiting for far too long – the one all the girls want to be and all the boys want to be with, strutting Irving Plaza’s broad boards with confidence. Both glamourous and approachable, she’s half drop dead cool, half unhinged mess. One minute, she’s an iconic snapshot, pointing skyward through a bondage-style fingerless leather glove as her black fringe falls in a perfect crescent over her eyes; the next, she’s spitting on the floor and dancing like a drunk. As a rather wonderful bonus, she has red lipstick smeared all over her face like she’s been snogging the whole world and doesn’t give a damn who knows.
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs have always been a revelation, but they’re even more vibrant and formidable after spending time in the studio perfecting their debut album. It’s almost unfeasible that a mere trio can create such a sound: thanks to quick-fingered talent and an effects pedal, Nick’s guitar sounds like bass, guitar and keyboards in one. New songs like ‘Tick’ and ‘Ten’ are spiky, ambitious, and unimpeachably brilliant. Karen breathily introduces one particularly melodic tune as “a little love song”, dedicating it to her boyfriend Angus Andrew (the giant Antipodean singer in the Liars), and when she sings the words “I love you…” directly to him in the crowd, the mood turns unexpectedly poignant. Once the band ricochet into the ragged tongue-in-cheek screech of ‘Art Star’, however, sentimentality is blown to bits. Karen repeatedly makes reference to her “posse” up front (dedicating ‘Machine’ to her dress designer Christian Joy), but it doesn’t come across as exclusionary or cliquey – everyone in the room is in the YYYs’ gang.
Indeed, the best thing about this band is their infectious sense of fun, and the uninhibited joy they take in performing. Determinedly anti-careerist, they’re doing everything on their own terms – like turning down major label cash to make their album themselves – because money and fame just aren’t the point. The happy untainted rush of excitement they feel every time they get onstage seems to be more than they ever dreamed of. Tonight, Nick even takes out a pocket camera and snaps photos of the crowd, like a tourist in his own rock stardom.
They finish with ‘Year To Be Hated’, and Karen passes a microphone into the crowd so her hometown can sing along. The song sounds huge, funny, and fantastically backward: after all, unmistakably, it’s Yeah Yeah Yeahs‘ year to be loved.