Simply Gorgeous

“Their songs start off OK but then it’s all…..ARRRHHHDDDAHHHHHHHRRRRRRARAR.”

So says my wife regarding the New York based band the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Back in 2003, I dragged her to their first show at First Avenue when they were touring in support of the first CD, Fever To Tell. The reaction on her face (nausea) when they did the song “Art Star” (a track from their first self-titled EP which, btw, is one of the BEST album covers EVER) naturally led to what has now become a decade-plus debate with my wife on what is and what is not art.

This perpetual debate usually ends with me saying, “You have to have your art spoon fed to you” which invariably results in me not getting any vag booty that evening (please email me if you do not know what vag booty is or what the difference is between it and ass booty). It’s always been tough to play the Yeah Yeah Yeahs over the years for my wife, who considers The Stranger by Billy Joel and Bat Out of Hell by Meat Loaf to be the high water marks of art in music.

While I do enjoy both of those albums immensely, I think the tapestry of art that is music should contain a great deal more depth than those records. Variety, angst, power, labia, and soul vomit (all words that come to mind when I think of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs) should also be a part the lexicon of artistic expression in music. I doubt my wife, as well as many others, will ever see this.

So, when the Yeah Yeah Yeahs released It’s Blitz last March, I expected a similar reaction. As I listened to the record, I was stunned to hear an entirely new direction. A mellow sound made up of stunning vocals by Karen and wispy keyboards gave me hope that my wife would give it a chance, or perhaps even like it. One track in particular has haunted me since I first played it last spring.

“Skeletons” is simply gorgeous. It’s so fucking good it just breaks my heart. It starts off with melancholic softness and builds into a majestic cacophony that makes the listener feel like he or she is John Wayne riding through Monument Valley in triumph. I am honestly at loggerheads as to which track will be the track of the year… this one or “Strange Enough” by N.A.S.A. Both feature Karen, so at least no matter which song I pick, I know I won’t dis the indie goddess of this century.

Last night as I was making dinner, I put “Skeletons” on the iPod boom box in the kitchen. My wife was reading the paper and looked up in the middle of the song. “This is a terribly sad song. I like it, though. Who is it?” I told her it was the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Her face quickly turned to astonishment. “Really? There’s no…….ARRRRAARRRGGGHHHHAARR…I hardly recognized it.”

I recommend that you buy the deluxe version of It’s Blitz as it has an accoustic (stunning!) version of “Skeletons” in addition to the original version.

Listen: Skeletons (mp3)

Buy It’s Blitz (click the cover):

Visit: Official Site | MySpace

Something like that, right? Is that what you want?

“Daddy, what’s stream of consciousness?”

My nine year old daughter was in the back seat of our minivan as we were heading home from summer day camp and laid yet another way beyond her age question on me. For a moment, my thoughts went back to when she was four years old and asked me if George Bush was a Christian. And if he was, why would he send people to kill other people if it was murder and breaking one of the Ten Commandments? I think Jean Piaget, developmental psychologist of the early and middle 20th Century, was rolling in his grave to hear a four year old express a question dripping with formal operational thought.

I actually could’ve used Piaget in answering not only the question from five years ago, but the current one that had piqued her curiosity.

“Why do want to know, hon?” I asked her.

“Well, we were talking about rap music today at camp and one of the counselors said that rap was cool because it was like stream of consciousness. So I want to know what that is.”

So, I spent the next few minutes explaining to her what it meant…how random thoughts can be strung together in a seemingly related way to express a thought or mood. Or both.

“Let’s listen to a song like that.”

I knew she’d make this request and I had the perfect one in mind…the Song of the Summer of 2009.

American Sam Spiegel (aka Squeak Spiegel) and Brazilian Ze Gonzales (aka Zegon) came together in 2007 to create a massively cool indie hip hop band called N.A.S.A. No, it’s not your father’s space agency but actually North America-South America…a sisterhood and brotherhood of unity that, quite frankly, our country could really use right now. All of their music reflects this mood quite wonderfully.

On February 17, 2009, the duo released The Spirit of Apollo. There are several great tracks on this record as well as a collection of guest stars like David Byrne, John Frusciante, Tom Waits, Santogold, George Clinton, and a wide variety of rappers and hip hop artists.

The track that really grabbed me, and officially became OCD (Obssesive Compulsive Disorder) song #1 of 2009 (review of OCD #2 to appear here soon) – and what I played for my daughter to illustrate the beauty of stream of consciousness – was “Strange Enough”, featuring the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard (Wu Tang Clan), Fatlip, and the seriously stunning on several levels Karen O (lead singer of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs). What an absolute fucking corker of a song!

I think I have played this track every day at least once since it came out in February and, for whatever reason, it has become synonymous with this summer. Virtually everyone I have played it for has downloaded it. It’s rhythm is tight. The mood is intense and the lyrics are just plain cool. “Freak show pantie lover…but I’m getting too old for this like Danny Glover” or “Wild boy cowboy entertainer…insane…Purple Rainer”(special shout out to our Prince loving host of this site) are just two examples of how much fun this song is.

And Karen O’s bit is mega fucking cool. Towards the end of her rap, which is essentially the chorus of the song, she breaks down and giggles, asking Squeak and Zegon, who were presumably in the control room while she did her part…

“Something like that, right? Is that what you want?”

To which, the reply from Fatlip is:


No shit. Track of the Summer. Period. Heck, it might even be the Song of the Year but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We still have five months left of 2009. And there is this track (serendipity!) on the new Yeah Yeah Yeahs album…

Hear: Strange Enough (mp3)

Buy: Spirit of Apollo

Visit: N.A.S.A. Official Site | MySpace