Album Review: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Cool It Down

Karen O's avant punk outfit hits back with a new synth sound that lands heavier and richer than the band’s biggest indie anthems

What a way to make a comeback. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs haven’t officially been anywhere, but the nine long years since Mosquito is enough of a gap for Cool It Down to feel like a reboot – the opening seconds of ‘Spitting Off The End Of The World’ sounding like Karen O kicking the doors down all over again. 

Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Spitting Off the Edge of the World ft. Perfume Genius (Official Video)

She’s been here before, of course. Hitting the sharp and dirty end of the post-punk revival in early 00s, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs scuzzed up an entire generation of indie kids with Fever To TellShow Your BonesIt’s A Blitz and Mosquito followed fast, but the last decade saw the band on hiatus. 

With the New York New Wave long since ebbed away, the band come back now to a very different scene with a new sound to match. Guitars become synths. Sticky-floored clubs become sci-fi stadium stages. Lo-fi stomp becomes something too big to see the edges of. 

After that bruising opening on ‘Spitting Off The End Of The World’ finishes melting, you realise what the point was – taking the folk beat of ‘Gold Lion’ and smothering it in synth to bury whatever’s left of the past. There’s extra shimmer here from Perfume Genius, but this is all Karen O’s groove, digging back to her original 80s influences to make a new retro anthem for a grown-up crowd who now wear their angst differently without the grubby Converse to prove it.  

At only eight tracks long, Cool It Down is short, but it hits hard. “Come close” O whispers on ‘Lovebomb’, a mounful sci-fi ballad with Vangelis vibes, soaked in dream pop, that practically asks the audience to all take a few steps forward. Nostalgia hangs heavy too, on ‘Wolf’, and ‘Fleez’ – the latter namedropping ESG in storytelling lyrics that feel like they need their own Nicolas Winding Refn adaptation. 

Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Burning (Official Video)

Second single ‘Burning’ digs a few decades deeper for its inspirations – mixing Frankie Valli nods, Motown beats and a West Side Story video with the raw taste of ‘Sacrilege’. Follow up ‘Blacktop’ brings the comedown with bitterness, O crouching back into shadow for a song that feels like a fade out. “Oh how the world keeps on spinning, it goes spinning out of control” she erupts on ‘Different Today’, breaking the mood again with another blast of space funk. 

It’s something sweeter and more melancholy, though, that leads us out – with O speaking beat poetry over a shimmer on ‘Mars’, a touch of M83’s early retro electronica bleeding through the softness of a bedtime story. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait another nine years to hear the next chapter.  

Cool It Down is available to buy and stream from Friday 30 September.