If you’re just joining us, check out the About This Project link for details. Basically, I make playlists of all the singles by certain musical artists and then try to order them using the guiding principle “do I like each song more than the last song.” I define “single” in a broad enough way to include any song that was released as a purchasable single in any format in any country; as a promotional single in any country; as a video; or generally any song that I know charted anywhere. My main sources are Wikipedia (mostly reliable) and Discogs (reasonably reliable). I welcome editing feedback since sometimes I favor speed over spelling.
I first learned about the Yeah Yeah Yeahs… uh… I…
I don’t know how I first heard about the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I know I purchased their first album – Fever to Tell – without having heard any of the songs on it. Maybe I read a review at Metacritic? Or an end of the year review? At any rate, something caught my attention and I bought their first album on CD. My first impression of that recordwas “this is a tuneless mess,” but that’s frequently my first impression of albums. With a little time (and with the reminder that I am, after all, a big fan of Sonic Youth’s more tuneless work), I really got into the band. I was completely sold on them after hearing a student of mine perform the excellent non-single “Hysteric” (I’d have ranked it #1) at a school event. The band – (the endlessly compelling) Karen O on vocals, Nick Zinner on guitar and Brian Chase on drums – has been largely inactive as a recording unit since 2013, though Karen O has made a couple of great solo and solo-ish records (and collaborated on some excellent singles) since that time.
I’ve made the choice to focus exclusively on the singles and videos from their discography page on Wikipedia. I offer no defense of this decision. In general, I at least like every song on this list, beginning with very, very mild like.
Video from Mosquito (2013), video released in 2013
The title track from Mosquito was released as a video but not officially as a single. We’re living in an age where you can download any song, or add any song to your Spotify list, so maybe the only reason to release a single at all is to focus attention on one song for a time in order to get it into people’s brains. That will, hopefully, lead you to spend money on the band’s music in some future unspecified way. Go to a concert? Pay #$1.29 for a download? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
While I appreciate the “I-He-They” conjugation in the lyrics, this is (according to Karen O) literally a song about how she hates mosquitoes. I can’t argue with that sentiment, but I’m not sold on the idea of a whole song on the topic. I prefer Oingo Boingo’s more general take on insect hatred. It’s not a bad song, per se, but there’s so many better songs ahead.
Mosquito – the album -it should be noted generated a lot of controversy for it’s album cover. You’ll note (particularly after I’ve posted both entries on the Yeah Yeah Yeahs) that I didn’t attempt to do an MS Paint version of that one.
UK only single from Machine EP (2002), released as a single in 2002
So, in the United Kingdom – where EPs can chart as singles – the first Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ release – their 2001 self titled EP which included the great early tune “Bang” (among other great songs) – hit #1 on the indie chart. Their follow up was Machine, which included songs from their then-forthcoming Fever To Tell LP. The significant thing here is that the EP and single captured their new higher production standards and something of a shift in their sound. I’m not entirely sure what “Machine” is about, but it sounds sinister, so points for that. I do enjoy how Zinner and Chase will absolutely freak out on their instruments and then effortlessly resolve into a groove. I just think they do it better on other songs.
13. Y Control
Fourth single from Fever to Tell (2003), released as a single in 2004
Hey, I just saw a production of Tartuffe where they used this song. It made me think “criminy, the youths like this tune. Have I under-ranked it?” “No,” I answered myself, “these lists are about what you like, not what they like.” “But how will I ever be cool to teens if I don’t prove that I like their music.” “No. Stop.” “But…” “Just stop.”
Turns out that “Y Control” is, in fact, one of the band’s most popular songs. The lyrics are thought by many to be a response to Prince’s “Pussy Control” To my ear, the song initially seemed like it might be making a game control reference. It is not that. In fact, it is apparently a critique about a woman being controlled by a man. I applaud that, but again just find the song to be a little weaker than some of the ones coming up.
Third single from It’s Blitz (2009), released as a single in 2010
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ sound had evolved by the time of 2009’s It’s a Blitz and they were experimenting with tunes that had a bit more of an ambient sense to them. “Skeletons” is one such song. If I’m reading the lyrics right (which is unlikely), the song is about being obliterated by love (skeleton seems to be used as a verb). I… I don’t have a lot else to write right here.
Second single from Fever to Tell (2003), released as a single in 2003
Karen O often takes a minimalist approach to lyric writing. In the case of “Pin,” she only uses 77 words total and most of those are repeated. The geniuses at, uh, Genius suggest the song is about how she’s not really satisfied with the emotional content of the relationship she’s in, but she does like the sex. This, of course, puts the title of the song in a light which is not necessarily complimentary to her paramour. Pushing in the pin, indeed. What I like about the song is Nick Zinner’s great guitar hook (which Karen O echos in her vocals) and the fact that Brian Chase pounds the drums like they just stole the parking space in Manhattan – and he’d been already signaled for it when they stole it. At the end, there’s this great single note guitar sequence that feels like Zinner is also pushing in some sort of pin, though his might be that of a hand grenade.
Coming Soon: Dance ’til you’re dead.