Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Is Is EP

Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Is Is EP

This five-song EP consists of material written during the 2004 Fever To Tell album tour and recorded in a one-day session. Singer Karen O, guitarist Nick Zinner, and drummer Brian Chase are here, baby, and they’re gonna rock your world. The tunes on this EP are raw, sharp, and catchy, and always push with some kind of propulsive rhythm – a dynamic strut of drums, guitar, and vocals, even on the calmer verse sections.

Karen O is a palpable presence, shooting off vocal zingers and emoting like Kat B’jelland of Babes In Toyland on the bellowing, lower-register “Whoah-ohs” and sounding like a young, more intense Siouxsie Sioux on the verses. Karen O’s a live wire, the antithesis of mellow – it’s like she’s stalking the guitar and drum sound and vice versa – and the spare lyrics sometimes aren’t even words at all, but punctuating yowls and other expressions, like a well-placed exultant “Hah!”, that strikes like a precisely-aimed karate chop.

The goth-punk peepshow of “Rockers To Swallow” is a killer way to open the EP with a hyper-expressive and aggressive Karen O carving out shouty, short phrases like a flicking knife on the spare verses and wailing brief exclamations on the choruses, sounding like a cross between an unbridled Siouxsie Sioux and a gritty Kat B’jelland. Her bravura vocal strut, complete with amplified and echoed yowling, panting, and growling, rubs up against a similar musical strut of hard-hitting drum beat and rough, low-end, distorted guitars, with the guitar riff on the verse recalling “I Want Candy” by Bow Wow Wow. The chorus section spins out with an assortment of extremely short exclamations of the aforementioned “Whoah-oh” and “Hah!” variety, bashed drums, crashed cymbals, and fiery guitars, creating a scintillating sound that hits on an instinctive level.

The next tune, “Down Boy”, is a “verse, chorus, verse” number and opens more quietly with attenuated, slightly tremulous keyboard notes, light beat, and plain sing-talking vocals that sound like Siouxsie Sioux in tone. The chorus section kicks it up a notch with with Karen O segueing from the verse to the chorus with a rip-roaring “Whoah – heh!”, quickly followed with a high-stepping beat, a hand-clap-type beat, gritty guitars, and Karen O switching gears, giving her vocals the dreamy treatment, as she sings in a languid tone “count me down, down, boy, down…” At the ends of the choruses, the guitars briefly take on a fiery quality, sweeping in all distorted and fuzzed up.

The catchiest track on the EP is “Kiss Kiss”, a driving guitar number with punky, fast-strum guitar, hard-hit drums, and again, Karen O sounding like Siouxsie Sioux on the vocals. Her urgent, glam vocals are emphasized on the verses as she sings “It’s all okay until someone dies…He’s got youth on his side…”, but she quickly changes to a sweeter, lighter tone, with an upward lilt at the ends of phrases on the chorus of “Everywhere kiss me…everywhere kids meet…” (which is an aural blurring of the words “kiss” and “kids”). The chorus also features short segments of skeining guitar lines, galloping drum beat, and whirling, blazing guitars that die down at the end of the song, leaving only Karen O to intone “we’re three, we’re three in the dark tonight…”

“Is Is” is an ominous, mid-tempo rocker that burns with feverish intensity as it progresses, with its wiry, low-end guitars and Karen O exclaiming in a darker, sharper tone than on the previous song, about how “…all my loves are hidden in pieces…” A piercing guitar line wends its way through the verses and is blasted away on the chorus as Karen O shouts “…if we’re still up high, we’ll throw ‘em to the sea…” and slightly hoarsely yowls out the phrase “wild night” over and over again against a torrent of guitar frisson, cymbal shimmer, and drum beat.

The closer “10X10” starts off low-key with a reverberating guitar line and muted, cryptic, sing-talking vocals (“…three by three was the house that buried me…did I really drown?”) until a crisp beat kicks in, along with sustained, higher-pitched guitar notes. Karen O’s choppy vocal phrasing matches the see-sawing tone of the guitar riffs and beat, as she sings “three nails pounded in the front door…start a few fires and end my stay…” On the chorus, an undercurrent of fiery, reeling guitars and gritty, low-end guitars clash against the crashing cymbals, as the steady drum beat gives the song its structure and propulsive strut.