Even though it’s unlikely that any of them will crack my Top Ten Albums list this year, 2022 was a pretty solid year for millennial legacy acts. You had above-average releases from the likes of Spoon, Arcade Fire, Death Cab For Cutie, Animal Collective, and Phoenix, perhaps rejuvenated by a second lease on their bands’ lives following the pandemic forcing a break from the typical writing, recording, and touring that accompanies an album release cycle. Though out of all these albums, the most anticipated was almost certainly the long-awaited return of one of the guiding lights of NYC’s ’00s rock revival, Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
This of course is because it had been nearly a decade since Yeah Yeah Yeahs released their last album Mosquito in 2013. In fact, it’s a gap so long that I think it may have caused people to forget that the ill-conceived Mosquito ever existed, while the legacy of the band’s shaggily brilliant trilogy of albums released during the ’00s has continued to cement them as one of the great rock bands of that decade. Still, Mosquito combined with the fact that Karen O’s side-projects in the ensuing years failed to make much impact left me skeptical over whether a Yeah Yeah Yeahs comeback record was a worthwhile endeavor.
However, after hearing the first single “Spitting Off The Edge of The World”, that skepticism receded a bit. The track is this hulking yet somehow ascendant piece of electro-rock that features a welcome appearance by Perfume Genius while evoking some triumphant, albeit disgusting imagery that brings to mind the band’s rowdier days. The rest of the album has a pretty similar sound, with synths being at the forefront and the band putting more of an emphasis on groove and atmosphere. Meanwhile, Karen O’s unmistakable vocals inject plenty of personality into sounds that could have come off as a little too polished or sterile in the hands of a less singular frontwoman.
While it perhaps would have been fun if Yeah Yeah Yeahs had made a “back to basics” record evoking their earlier guitar-driven work on Fever To Tell, one of their charms was always their ability to keep pushing their sound forward, even if their raucousness made them an unexpected candidate to do this. So it feels appropriate that Cool It Down feels like a logical next step in continuing the danceable pleasures of 2009’s It’s Blitz! While Cool It Down‘s more down-tempo mode may not produce as many bangers as that former album (though you gotta love the string-laden “Burning”), it makes sense that a band in their 40s aren’t bringing quite the level of energy that they used to. So getting to hear them push their sound forward a little bit, retain some of that old Yeah Yeah Yeahs magic, and appropriately act their age ain’t a bad deal at all.