Yeah Yeah Yeahs are one of those bands whose every move needs to be followed carefully. Since Fever To Tell hit the streets six years ago their sound has developed a lot, rounding off slightly in ensuing years but still possessing a terrific edge.
It’s doubtful, though, that anyone could have predicted their next move to be quite this radical. Or this risky. For by suddenly going disco on our asses, the band are asking the devotees of their initial sound to accept quite a sea change.
It ought not to be so difficult, mind – not with Karen O at the helm. Make no mistake, this woman has the sort of charisma that could see her walk off with American Idol with her eyes closed. And she sounds totally at home with her new, more rhythmic persona, as if this is what she’s been planning all along.
There are glacial moments of control which, because they’re the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, are rather startling. The dead voice that opens Dragon Queen has a beat of stilted cool behind it, and though O reaches for higher notes in the chorus, she does so with remarkably little humanity. It’s all strangely cold.
Conversely, Dull Life is anything but, a thrilling rush with a chorus carrying all before it. Zero, likewise, is a high octane stomper that introduces more than a little glam to the mix.
Soft Shock is curious, arriving like a distant reverie, Karen O seemingly reflecting on the ups and downs of a relationship. “In my room, in your room,” she remembers hazily, also observing “better, back together” before cooing her way through a gorgeous coda. Heads Will Roll is quite a different proposition, mind. “Off with your head, dance til you’re dead” goes the hedonistic invite. It’s futile to argue, given the beat that follows.
So despite a stylistic conversion, the gold lions still roar, as Karen O leads her charges into battle on the dancefloor. That they emerge victorious is a tribute to the strength of these fine songs as well as some seriously glamorous production attitude. Deborah Harry would be proud.