Sunday, April 20, 2008

Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Is Is

Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Is Is (4/5)

The latest release from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs is a mere five song E.P. that is somewhat reminiscent of their pre-Fever to Tell output. If while listening to Is Is you get the feeling that these songs sound like natural descendents to the YYYs early releases, like their self-titled debut and Machine, there’s a good reason for such suspicions: these songs were actually written around the same time as those early E.P.s. For their latest release the YYYs grabbed a bunch of older songs and re-recorded them. Unlike the rest of us, when the Yeah Yeah Yeahs look under their couch cushions instead of finding loose change they just happen to find a handful of unused songs.

Working against their more recent, more polished work, the latest YYYs release feels as if the whole affair was bound by a bunch of rusty bolts. While the songs have more of an edge than the YYYs’ indie-pop numbers, they’re hardly a retread of their early days. The stuttering pace of “Rockers to Swallow” sounds as if the drums and guitar would collapse if Karen O’s snarl didn’t whip them along all the way to the finish line. There’s a sense of space that wasn’t present in YYYs’ early fits of noise, which makes it even more important for the trio to play off one another. For his part, Brian Chase takes an opportunity for more complexity and drum fills, Nick Zinner expands his oeuvre with some psychadelia on “Isis,” and while avoiding any conventional melodies, Karen O showcases her strengths as a front woman. Is Is sounds like a sort of missing link between the YYYs’ early songs and their first album.

Considering that these songs were written long before this E.P. was recorded, I don’t think the YYYs are necessarily hinting at a new direction. From “Art Star” to “Cheated Hearts” the YYYs have already proven they shriek as well as they can sing, but it is comforting to know that they haven’t completely given up on shrieking. Here’s hoping that instead of plotting their songs along a pop/noise spectrum they realize there doesn’t have to be much of a difference between the two.

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