As adept at razor-wire art-punk as they are montage-ready tearjerkers, Yeah Yeah Yeahs‘ discography is an indie-rock masterclass. The New York trio – Karen O, Nick Zinner and Brian Chase – formed at the turn of the century, and quickly penned the blueprint for guitar music’s post-millennium future.
With their no-holds-barred attitude to twisting indie-rock into warped new shapes, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs canon can feel like an impenetrable fortress – just as you get your head around one side of their coin, another appears. Below, we’ve picked out ten of the best from across their four studio albums, as an introduction to one of post-punk’s most impressive forces.
10. Soft Shock
A rich, soaring ode to the simplest acts of affection, ‘Soft Shock’ is the perfect example of Yeah Yeah Yeah’s emotional intimacy. Despite clocking in at a reasonably standard three-and-a-half minutes, it feels like it could go on for eternity, the steadily building, overwhelming use of electronics perfectly capturing that feeling of taking a deep dive into devotion.
9. Y Control
Propelled by the crashing cymbal-work of drummer Brian Chase, ‘Y Control”s tale of a confused, mistreated lover is as catchy as it is bleak. The juxtaposition between the squealing, feedback-heavy guitars and the butter-wouldn’t-melt synths is quintessential Yeah Yeah Yeahs – there are few bands this good at fusing such audible opposites.
8. Under The Earth
Doomy and experimental, ‘Under The Earth’ is Yeah Yeah Yeahs at their most wickedly weird. It’s as ominous as they come, the synths sounding like not unlike a funeral march on Mars, while the creepy percussion that backs Karen O’s snarled vocals sounds lifted straight from a Hammer horror movie.
7. Gold Lion
Even for Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the acoustic-led ‘Show Your Bones’ LP was an unexpected turn. ‘Gold Lion’, that curveball album’s opener, does a perfect job of wielding those new acoustic arrangements like an axe, hitting just as hard as any of the band’s more plugged-in numbers.
The title track of Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ most recent record finds Karen O taking on the role of that titular insect, screeching about how she wants to “suck your blood” with all the ear-splitting cadence of a mosquito’s whine.
Boasting one of Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ most anthemic choruses, ‘Zero’ is an alt-club banger of the highest order, Karen O’s vocals reaching for the stars, while the grimy, bassy electronics below her dig around in the dirt of their New York City home.
A bratty-but-brilliant cut of stabbing post-punk mania, ‘Rich’ opened ‘Fever To Tell’, Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ genre-defining debut album. That introductory guitar line instantly embedding itself in the memories of a generation of hyper-cool music obsessives, it remains to this day one of indie’s most powerful openers.
3. Date With The Night
Karen O’s vocal delivery on ‘Date With The Night’ is so razor-sharp it should come with a warning. “Choke, choke, choke” she wheezes by way of a hook, as her most vampiric performance put to tape finds her cackling away at the sordid confusion of a night on the tiles.
2. Heads Will Roll
Launching into life with a synth line as essential to the indie disco as a night-closing ‘Wonderwall’ and a dozen regrettable Jägerbombs, ‘Heads Will Roll’ is, for many, the quintessential Yeah Yeah Yeahs banger. Violent and vibrant, it still sounds as fresh as the day it was set loose.
But of course. The introduction to Yeah Yeah Yeahs for a thousand-and-one young indie kids, ‘Maps’ might pitch itself a mile away from ‘Fever To Tell”s most chaotic moments, but it’s no less captivating. Hypnotic and delicately delivered, it’s Yeah Yeah Yeahs at their most inviting – a heart-warming, truly beautiful track, worthy of its place among the pantheon of pints-aloft, gig-ending tearjerkers.