PREVIEW / INTERVIEW
Pour Some Sugar on Me
The ballyhooed Yeah Yeah Yeahs survive by keeping it simple, sexy and sweet.
I know Flavor Flav told you not to. But believe this: The Yeah Yeah Yeahs not only match the hype they swim in, they outdo it.
Coming together just a pinch over two years ago, the YYYs, like Hollywood child stars, grew up fast. Launched at the height of the "new New York rock" frenzy, the trashy Brooklyn trio seemed to spawn glossy magazine spreads before anyone actually heard its music. "We were born in the hype," says lead singer Karen O.
It could have been disaster, had this minimalist, spastic and sexed-up band not stayed focused on what really matters--its music.
"As long as we're making good songs, we can blow off the whole world," O. says. "'Cause as soon as we stop making good songs, then we're just an illusion of a band. We don't really exist anymore."
That mentality helped a trio confronted with hard choices at an unthinkably young age (in band-years, anyway) make some wise decisions. For one thing, the Yeahs made the nail-biting call to sign to a major.
"It's like finding a really good school for your kids," says guitarist Nick Zinner.
"The fear was that we'd always be thinking, 'What if?'" O. adds.
Still, standing in the spotlight's glare hasn't been easy.
"There's a tremendous amount of expectation put on you when you have as much hype as we do," O. says. "And that expectation is poisonous. It's destructive."
If Fever to Tell, the album which drops Tuesday on Interscope, is any indication, the pressure helped the Yeah Yeah Yeahs create some of the best rock out there.
And what better way to back that sentiment than with a potent dose of what ignited the fast-spreading buzz to begin with: a raucous, hedonistic, jaw-dropping live set?
"Everything becomes abstract quick, because there's so much expectation, so much of other people's desires and wants and needs that don't really have to do with us making music," O. says. "What we want is to go back to us being able to write songs when we want. That's always in jeopardy when everyone wants a piece of you."
With the ultra-sensual O. flaunting and falling about onstage, vocals first cooing seductively then shrieking fervently, it's hard not to want a piece. Add drummer Brian Chase's pumping mastery on the kit and Zinner's dynamo raw, lunging riffs, and the band's live show could lift you damn near climax.
"I love playing with Nick and Karen," says Chase, who also drums for N.Y. post-punks the Seconds. "I think we have something special. We're one of the greatest bands around playing live right now, so you just never lose sight of that." (Jenny Tatone)
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs play Thursday, April 24, at Meow Meow, 527 SE Pine St., 230-2111. The Icarus Line and other guests also appear. 9 pm. $12.All ages.
Recent Releases Reviewed.
...AND YOU WILL KNOW US BY THE TRAIL OF DEAD
The Secret of Elena's Tomb EP (Interscope)
The problem with enhanced CDs is that now bands feel obligated to make them. This five-song sonic appetizer by Texas' major-label answer to Unwound comes dressed up with a couple of videos. To what end? We see the Trail of Dead boys hanging around a hotel lobby drinking cordials, recycling Sonic Youth riffz and doing their strapping-indie-god thing on various underlit stages. Sort of makes you want to demand that Congress confiscate their haircuts. The actual songs are decent demonstrations of AYWKUBTTOD's mushy-centered, drony art-rock, lushly produced and entirely thrill-free. (Zach Dundas)
THE NOVEMBER GROUP Hang Us All As Traitors (Em-Zine)
Nice, regular, steady-as-she-goes genre, hardcore punk. Even as years pass, it remains a fixed point in this crazy world. Seattle's November Group delivers your recommended daily allowance of grisly guitar lashings, gruffly didactic and articulate lyrics delivered at such speed as to be indecipherable, and fury-of-angels rhythmic signatures. All very Born Against Redux, but you can't deny the passion. Hardcore remains as effective as it ever was for take-it-or-leave sentiments such as "John Ashcroft Is a Terrorist." To the barricades! (ZD)
VARIOUS ARTISTS Lonesome, On'ry and Mean: A Tribute
to Waylon Jennings (Dualtone)
Waylon is dead, and with him the hard-living country outlaw archetype. Today's male country stars are issued a black cowboy hat, designer mustaches and a sheaf of patriotic anthems by the boys down at Corporate, then sent on their way. Fitting, then, that it's up to a mismatched collection of outsiders and novelty choices to pour some on the pavement in the rough old bastard's honor. Highlights: Guy Clark's perfectly booze-corroded "Good Hearted Woman"; Nanci Griffiths' wind-blown "You Asked Me To"; and (surprise!) Henry Rollins' amazingly credible turn as a Horton Heat imitator on the title track. (ZD) 0
HISS and VINEGAR
WHAT'S WRONG WITH CAT POWER?
This is a question that has troubled many music fans, in addition to men and women of laboratory science. Cat Power (a.k.a. Chan "It's Pronounced 'Shawn,' Goddamn You to Hell" Marshall) is real mesmerizing on piano and all that. But almost anyone who's seen the girl perform knows she's eggshell-fragile on stage, given to meandering, incomplete songs, weeping and sudden walkouts. So why does she persist in this torment for herself and others?
Faced with this puzzle, H&V turned to our usual source for psychiatric information: a book called The Neuroses by one Walter C. Alvarez, published in 1951. Some might scoff at such an antiquated info source, but we think Doc Alvarez knows his shit. Such chapters as "Neuroses Produced by Physicians Who Say Frightening Things" and "The Sorrows of the Homosexual Man" prove this medicus was not only a scholar but an incisive prose stylist.
So does Doc Alvarez have the Answer to Cat Power's problems? Yes! For, in his words, people who complain of "loss of pep...show signs of tendency towards irrational behavior." Some people try "to escape anything difficult or unpleasant by refusing to face it or discuss it; they just 'go into silence.'" So what's to be done? Well, if there's one thing good Doc Alvarez stresses in his classic work, it's that a patient has to want to change.
"One of the most foolish things a physician can do is to try to cure a person against his or her will," Alvarez notes with the wisdom of the ages. Will the mercurial She-Cat show the iron will needed to change her spots? Local armchair headshrinkers can find out this Wednesday night at Roseland Theater.