Usually I'm floating, lost at sea, being half-swallowed by a gigantic snake or standing on the edge of a cliff, fearing my inevitable dive. But, last night I had a great time in my dream. I was at this incredible party and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs were playing. They even played my favorite song, "Art Star," off their self-titled EP. Well, it would be my favorite song if it sounded in reality like it did in my subconscious world. See, in my dream, the New York City punk rock trio excluded the painfully growling, death-metal-like noise that breaks up the stripped-down, irresistibly infectious verses I love.
"Art Star" has been bothering me since I received the EP (first released on the group's own Shifty label, now rereleased on Touch & Go). It could be such an amazing song if I didn't have to slam the stereo off just as the excruciating noise busts in and angers me. Just as I'm beginning to really get into it, I have to turn it off what a tease! (Side note: I know some of you consider such nonsensical blasts of noise "art-rock," but, to me, it's unnecessary and, here, not as effective as, say, Sonic Youth's Confusion Is Sex days.) But understand, that's part of lead singer Karen O's power just when you think she's sweet and innocent, she busts in and demands you swallow her spit. She lures you in with youthful sensuality, arouses you enough that you beg for more, and just as you fall to your knees, right when you're down, she kicks you, whips around and deserts you.
These conflicting personas, all soaked in bad-ass attitude, drive the five-song EP, the band's only release so far, which has, not surprisingly, generated quite a buzz. Their sound is dirty and raw, sexy and wrong. Karen O's vocals shake, quiver and grind against the jagged feel of their bass-less lineup; riding the gritty and lunging guitar riffs over the smacks and slaps of the trashcan beats. Her cutesy intermittent giggles seem at first lovable and later of the loony-bin sort, as if she's on the verge of losing it completely. She comes across quiet and bashful, but has an unspeakable magnetism about her that immediately commands attraction. She's no loud-mouthed Courtney Love; her domineering power is much greater simply because she doesn't need to exert any energy in order to dominate. She sucks you in effortlessly.
The record is, of course, lo-fi a crisp, cleaned up production just wouldn't match the humanistic imperfections and natural roughness in their sound. There's a thrill in rock 'n' roll that's drenched in attitude and soul. There's a thrill in doing wrong, being bad and getting teased. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs have got both those going on and no doubt about it it's twice the thrill.