Yeah Yeah Yeahs hung up their mic a decade ago, leaving behind a flawless catalogue. The return of the much-loved Brooklyn types brought some crowd-pleasing shows – including a sold out O2 Academy Brixton date – but it also raised the spectre of something new. A band forever chasing down the future, the three-piece re-assembled last year, focussed on crafting something to follow-up 2013’s magnificent (if overlooked) ‘Mosquito’.
The results more than match their stellar back catalogue. At its best, ‘Cool It Down’ presents some of their best work, songwriting packed with venom and intent, overhauling the past to face down future ambitions. There is a snag, though: it’s all over too quickly.
Bolshy opening gambit ‘Spitting Off The End Of The World’ is magnificent, a bravura statement of intent that blends a Hollywood-esque sense of widescreen ambition with a potent, preening vocal from Karen O. Arena level synth pop, it’s topped off with some Robert Fripp style guitar lines, a blazing, neon-soaked inferno of stylish noise.
In contrast, ‘Lovebomb’ opens with ambient leaning synths, all texture and tone as Karen O’s moans daub the landcape with erotic sound. ‘Wolf’ switches it up once more, those jagged synthetic strings pivoting between the glamour and danger of a night with Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
The electronic palette continues on bruising album highlight ‘Fleez’, the crunching muscle of its bass tones offset to an imperious Karen O vocal that moves from visceral screeches to illuminating alt-pop. ‘Burning’ is a clear highlight, a moment of complete control and assurance – “Took me over like a fever” – that stands proudly alongside anything they’ve released to date.
‘Blacktop’ rolls down the temperature once more, before ‘Different Today’ offers something glacial, and pure. Closing with the sparse electronics that beset the sketch-like ‘Mars’ it’s a record that, to be polite, doesn’t overstay it’s welcome. And while that’s a strength – ‘Cool It Down’ feels defined, succinct in a way that suggests complete confidence – it’s also a weakness. A smidge over 30 minutes, and with only eight songs, it already has you yearning for what might come next.
Words: Robin Murray