Julia Gray juliagrayok June 1, - 2: Online communities foster genres and styles regardless of physical geography. New sonic ideas are being conceived and spread all the time. There was a distinct post-punk garage-rock sound coming out of New York at the time with bands like the Strokes and Interpol as its poster children.
A restlessness ran throughout NYC. Karen O felt it all with a unique energy unlike anything bred in the music scene, untethered to the brooding temperament. She was ferocious, silly, unafraid to put a microphone in her mouth, reckless and raw, standing among the widely male-fronted gamut with her scrappy art-rock band the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
The three joined forces and hype immediately spread via word-of-mouth. Do you want to open up for the White Stripes at Mercury Lounge? She took the stage covered in olive oil, wearing a see-through wifebeater and heart-shaped pasties.
The angst percolating around New York took form in Karen O as a physical urge. You saw it onstage and you could hear it in recordings.
It was a blaring proclamation that demanded to be heard. Fever To Tell unearthed the ideas and aggressions that bubbled beneath the surface of their first two EPs. O leads an emotional rollercoaster, howling and moaning and gasping for air. Sexual tension and vicious desire melt into longing love songs and devastating heartbreak. She speaks to universal emotions with the violence and intensity they incur. This album took the Yeah Yeah Yeahs from underground icons to critically-acclaimed rockstars and remains their most muscular and impressive work to date.
It expanded with each passing year. Technology improved, Brooklyn became the new Manhattan, and indie rock began to settle within the mainstream. As circumstances shifted, so did the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The next year they somewhat returned to their sexually-charged art-punk beginnings with the Is Is EP. Here we meet Karen O the popstar, a role she pulls off remarkably well. The album had its fans and it definitely had its critics, but it feels like a mere blip in their history.
The beating heart that Karen O ripped out of her chest in the s was drained. That moment was a sweet spot — their lyrics were gaining a poetic complexity and their energy was still fresh from Fever — which the band tapped into as if they had written the songs yesterday. One might argue that this is their purest, most instinctual work, a mission statement of sorts.
This song feels like an ode to underdogs everywhere. The harmony is unmistakable. The indie crossover was on its last genuine legs, and you can hear them hanging on.
Their early albums were crowded and sticky. Off with your head! Freak-disco convulsions envelop you in a surreal house party. O sneers and yelps, commanding the song as she verbally commands her body: Its full force was felt in this one line: