Up to number 53 on my B100 top tunes list and it’s appropriately across to New York courtesy of Yeah Yeah Yeahs and “Maps” from their 2003 debut album “Fever To Tell”.
Emerging out of the fertile early 00s NYC scene, and given an early significant name check when The Strokes’ Albert Hammond Jr wore a YYYs badge on a Saturday Night Live performance, Yeah Yeah Yeahs have both one of the greatest band names and one of the most exciting frontwomen in rock’n’roll. YYYs are also one of very few contemporary groups to look like a cartoon (this is a good thing), starring Karen O as a fringed whirling dervish, Nick Zinner a diminutive goth guitar genius and Brian Chase a nerdy but hulking drummer. And the relatively restrained “Maps” is a perfect showcase for all three members, featuring a naggingly insistent guitar riff giving way to powerfully tribal drumming before Karen O starts to sing with heartfelt insistence that “wait, they don’t love you like I love you…”. A stakes-raising instrumental interlude follows before one of the most beautifully lovelorn choruses you could wish to hear returns to complete this affecting and much beloved song.
“Maps” is featured on Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ 2003 LP “Fever To Tell”, the first of four in total; albeit with none released since 2013’s “Mosquito”, a slightly patchy effort that doesn’t quite hit the heights of their first three terrific and distinctive albums. “Fever To Tell” is a brilliantly bratty rock’n’roll debut, followed by a slightly more polished feel on 2006’s “Show Your Bones”, while 2009’s superb “It’s Blitz!” saw Yeah Yeah Yeahs artfully incorporate dance influences, especially on the marvellous single “Zero”. “Fever To Tell”’s sheer exuberant excitement marks it out as my favourite YYYs LP plus it boasts one of the great all-time album segues, when the chiming conclusion of “Maps” blends seamlessly into the Morse code like opening bars of the rousing “Y Control”, for which Spike Jonze directed a suitably chaotically unsettling video.
I mentioned above what a great frontwoman Karen O and this really helps to seal the deal for Yeah Yeah Yeahs as a truly fantastic live band. I have never seen anyone seem to be having as much fun on stage as Karen O, who constantly beams while singing as if to say “look at me, I’m just loving this so much”, a totally endearing trait that makes her effortlessly luminous stage presence shine that bit brighter. Of course, Nick and Brian’s formidable playing are equally essential, boosted by the presence of David Pajo from the sublime Slint (creators of my #10 song choice) as a second guitarist when playing live, to create an overwhelmingly powerful sound.
VIDEOS AND OTHER STUFF
- “Maps” video on YouTube
- Bonus: “Y Control” Spike Jonze directed video
- Other great Yeah Yeah Yeahs songs include: Y Control, Zero, Hysteric, Cheated Hearts, Date With The Night, Gold Lion, Heads Will Roll.
- “Maps” is featured on my B100 Spotify playlist
- Also featured on my 379: Indie So to Y Spotify playlist
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