Posts Tagged ‘Nick Zinner’

Yeah Yeah Yeahs Fever To Tell

Yeah Yeah Yeah’s  announced details of a vinyl reissue of their seminal, ground-breaking debut, “Fever To Tell”, through Interscope Records / UMe. Of all the bands that emerged from the beer-soaked basements of New York City’s music scene at the turn of the 21st Century, Yeah Yeah Yeahs were by far the most compelling. A trio of art school misfits, Karen O, Nick Zinner and Brian Chase flouted the conventions of indie rock and, with their debut album, “Fever To Tell”, brought a sense of fun and urgency to the quickly calcifying garage-rock revival.

Speaking about the release, the New York trio said, “A friend of a friend kept asking if we were ever gonna put Fever To Tell out on vinyl as it hasn’t been on vinyl in 10 years. That’s not right. So here it is on vinyl for the first time in 10 years plus a time capsule of photos, demos (1st ever recorded,) a mini film documenting our near downfall and other fun memorabilia, from the turn of the century NYC, made with love + the usual blood, sweat + tears of Yeah Yeah Yeahs.”

One of the finest debut albums of recent times, “Fever To Tell” was released in 2003 and was influential in shaping the sound of the early aughts and beyond. Prior to its release, Karen O, Nick Zinner and Brian Chase had already established themselves as a ferocious live force; Fever To Tell introduced a band who could play thrilling and frenetic rock’n’roll one minute and captivating, hushed ballads the next. Its meld of scuzzy riffs, angular grooves and hypnotic hooks set a template that was often imitated over the next decade but the album’s rare chemistry isn’t easily replicated. It’s a snapshot of an era that sounds just as mesmerizing as it enters its 15th anniversary in 2018.

Both the band and album were a product of a specific time and place. Rising out of the ashes of a post-9/11 New York, Yeah Yeah Yeahs embodied the hedonism and debauchery of the nightlife scene, when people were looking for release. Riding a wave of critical buzz from their first two EPs, the group set about shedding the “garage-rock” label and channelling the energy of their live shows into a fully-formed, genre-defying debut album that more than lived up to the hype. Released on 29 April 2003, Fever To Tell signalled what the future of rock would sound like.

Much of Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ outsider status came from their art school sensibilities. Karen O and Brian Chase met at Oberlin college, while Nick Zinner matriculated at Bard before they all decamped to New York and enmeshed themselves in the mythologised Brooklyn underground scene, playing warehouses and crumbling lofts before opening for likes of The White Stripes. But while Yeah Yeah Yeahs are a product of New York, they got their first brush with fame overseas, playing headlining shows in the UK and creating pandemonium wherever they went, before even releasing their debut album in the States.

At the time of the album’s release, Brooklyn was a just a blip on the radar as far as the mainstream was concerned, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs were battling Clear Channel’s chokehold of the charts, dominated by Linkin Park, Creed, Nickelback and the rest of their ilk. As its title suggests, Fever To Tell has a wild sense of urgency to it; it burns red-hot and rarely lets up – who knows if there will even be tomorrow? For now, you have a date with the night.

Fever To Tell opens with the No Wave punch of ‘Rich’, a blast of snares, thrashing guitars and Karen’s guttural shrieks, making it clear they weren’t messing around. There’s also a layer of synths, so the track “could in no way be mistaken for a garage track”, said Karen.

Outside the album’s sonic outlier, ‘Maps’, ‘Date With The Night’ is Fever To Tell’s most brilliant cut, a stomping rocker that morphs from punk anthem to a sweaty dancefloor number, punctuated by Karen’s orgasmic trills. By the time it’s over, it feels like you’ve survived a bender with the band.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs: Fever To Tell: Exclusive Deluxe Box Set

Birthed in the New York tradition, Yeah Yeah Yeahs represented a sum of the city’s musical parts, from No Wave to art-rock, post-punk to brash pop. Fever To Tell also predicted the next wave to come out of NYC: dance-rock, something their groove-laden debut helped set into motion. You can’t listen to the scuzzy, wailing guitars, bouncy percussion and enticing synth line of ‘Y Control’ without walk-walk-walking your butt to the dancefloor, the city’s cabaret laws be damned. At centre of all this hype was the band’s fearless leader, Karen O. Dubbed the female Iggy Pop, for her wild stage antics and lack of self-preservation, Karen O is the album’s emotional lightning rod.

Along with inspiring a generation of rock frontwomen Karen O is also to blame for every girl in Brooklyn with a Beatles bowl cut. That said, she was untouchable on stage, and she brings her beer-swelling, world-conquering swagger to the album. From her man-eating grin on ‘Man’ to her lusty “uh-huhs’ on ‘Black Tongue’ and frenzied shrieks on ‘Tick’, Karen O doesn’t do the detached, post-punk flat vocal delivery; she works every word, demanding you listen.

Sometimes, however, her punk tendencies ran the risk of overshadowing her actual vocal performances. She only drops her guard towards the end of Fever To Tell, with ‘Modern Romance’, the Velvet Underground-inspired ‘Poor Song’ and Maps’.

Fever To Tell wasn’t all just piss and vinegar, though. It also birthed the band’s most beautiful song: ‘Maps’, a vulnerable, lovelorn ballad that’s as devasting as the rest of the album is frenetic.

The intro to ‘Maps’ has become one of the most recognisable in rock music history. It starts out spare and sweet, before Zinner fully unleashes his guitar at the end, creating an immortal, indie-rock ballad for the hipster generation.

“Those f__king weird art-project kids wrote a beautiful hit, and it went global,” said Vice Media co-founder Suroosh Alvi in Lizzie Goodman’s excellent oral history of the scene, Meet Me In The Bathroom. ‘Maps’ not only put Yeah Yeah Yeahs on the map, but planted a flag for the Brooklyn scene they came from.

What also set Yeah Yeah Yeahs apart from their Pabst-drinking peers and the punk revivalists is the dynamic guitar work of Nick Zinner and the percussive assault of Brian Chase. Zinner’s idiosyncratic technique and his producer’s ear more than made up for the fact the band had no bassist: listen to the thrashing fervour and guitar stabs of ‘Pin’, the monster blues riffs on ‘Black Tongue’ and the crashing cymbals of ‘Cold Light’, and Fever To Tell makes one thing abundantly clear: Yeah Yeah Yeahs are their own power trio.

Before Weezer released Pinkerton — the initially-misunderstood album that eventually became rightfully recognized as the band’s masterpiece — they were working on Songs From the Black Hole, a space-themed science fiction rock opera with guest vocals by Rachel Haden and Joan Wasser that was eventually abandoned, with some songs ending up on Pinkerton, others surfacing over the years, and others still in the vault or unfinished. Just judging by what does exist of it, it’s one of the great “lost” albums in rock history, and Weezer never attempted anything like it since. The post-Pinkerton, Matt Sharp-less version of the band has almost never neared the heights of the band’s classic ’90s era, though Matt Sharp’s band The Rentals have. Their 2014 reunion album “Lost In Alphaville” (released on Polyvinyl) was the album that those of us who wanted another Blue Album were waiting for, and with the self-released Q36 — The Rentals’ first new album in six years – they just may have made their Songs From the Black Hole.

The Rentals’ lineup is now Matt Sharp with Yeah Yeah Yeahs guitarist Nick Zinner and The Killers drummer Ronnie Vanucci, and they made this album with frequent Flaming Lips collaborator Dave Fridmann as mixing engineer and guest vocal contributions from The Gentle Assassins Choir, School of Seven Bells’ Alejandra Deheza, and others. Fridmann especially is a perfect fit for Q36; Lost In Alphaville sounded like crunchy, punchy, power-poppy ’90s Rentals but Q36 is a soaring, adventurous psychedelic pop album that sounds like Matt Sharp’s very own Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. And, lyrically, it’s a space-themed science fiction concept album.


Each of the 16 songs on this double album tells its own story — with inspiration coming from real-life occurrences like Apollo 11 (“Forgotten Astronaut”) and the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster (“Great Big Blue”), as well as hypothetical, apocalyptic scenarios that fall under “science fiction” but aren’t so impossible to imagine these days — and Matt chose to introduce these stories to the world by releasing one song at a time over the past few months. Together, the 16 songs of Q36 make something that genuinely earns the term “epic.” It’s by far the most ambitious music that Matt Sharp has ever released, and he pulls it off. The Rentals’ first reunion album proved they could still churn out quality versions of the music they made in the ’90s, but I don’t know who could’ve predicted Matt would return six years later with a star-studded line up and an album that is both literally and figuratively out of this world. This is the kind of album that music nerds dream up when they’re shooting the breeze about hypothetical supergroups and album concepts that will never exist. But I promise you’re not dreaming, Q36 really does exist, and it’s as great as it sounds like it’d be. Surely “Q36” is Matt’s magnum opus. I was unsure at first as the singles came out but one by one it turned into a masterpiece!.

The space western theme is a story on it’s own.

Released June 26th, 2020

(Singer, Songwriter; Producer) Matt Sharp
(Guitarist) Nick Zinner
(Drummer) Ronnie Vannucci

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Yeah Yeah Yeahs were scheduled to play some live shows this year, and while their headlining set at Pitchfork Music Festival 2020 is unfortunately off, being stuck at home isn’t stopping the band from performing together. Last night (May 23rd), they shared a video of a remote performance of the Show Your Bones track “Phenomena.” Instead of doing the typical split-screen setup, the camera focuses on Karen O in a darkened closet while Nick Zinner plays guitar on a laptop in front of her. There are costumes, streamers, strobe lights, and a fog machine. “Fuckin’ party on,” Karen yells at the end of the performance. Watch it below.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs haven’t released a new album since 2013’s Mosquito. Yeah Yeah Yeahs Jam to ‘Phenomena’ During Quarantine Closet Party . The members of Yeah Yeah Yeahs aren’t going to let the coronavirus pandemic stop them from throwing a party, even if it’s at home alone in a closet.

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We’re just a few weeks away from the long-awaited, highly anticipated release of The Rentals’ new outer space-themed double album Q36 (which main member Matt Sharp made with Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Nick Zinner on guitar, The Killers’ Ronnie Vannucci on drums, and Flaming Lips collaborator Dave Fridmann as mixing engineer), and here’s the latest single from it. It’s one of the most adventurous-sounding songs shared from the album yet.

Information (And The Island In The Sky) MUSIC: The Rentals
IMAGES: Cat Women Of The Moon

Matt Sharp: Vocals, Bass, Acoustic Guitar & Synthesizers
Nick Zinner: Electric Guitars
Ronnie Vannucci: Drums
Gentle Assassins: Choir
Dave Fridmann: Mix Engineer

With every record, Damon McMahon aka Amen Dunes has transformed, and Freedom is the project’s boldest leap yet. The first LP, D.I.A., was a gnarled underground classic, recorded and played completely by McMahon in a trailer in upstate New York over the course of a month and left as is. The fourth and most recent LP Love, a record that enlisted Godspeed! You Black Emperor as both producers and backing band (along with an additional motley crew including Elias Bender Rønnenfelt of Iceage and Colin Stetson), featured songs confidently far removed from the damaged drug pop of Amen Dunes’ trailer-park origins.

Love took two years to make. Freedom took three. The first iteration of the album was recorded in 2016 following a year of writing in Lisbon and NYC, but it was scrapped completely. Uncertain how to move forward, McMahon brought in a powerful set of collaborators and old friends, and began anew. Along with his core band members, including Parker Kindred (Antony & The Johnsons, Jeff Buckley) on drums, came Chris Coady (Beach House) as producer and Delicate Steve on guitars. This is the first Amen Dunes record that looks back to the electronic influences of McMahon’s youth with the aid of revered underground musician Panoram from Rome. McMahon discovered Panoram’s music in a shop in London and became enamored. Following this the two became friends and here Panoram finds his place as a significant, if subtle, contributor to the record.

The bulk of the songs were recorded at the famed Electric Lady Studios in NYC (home of Jimi Hendrix, AC/DC, D’Angelo), and finished at the similarly legendary Sunset Sound in L.A., where McMahon, Nick Zinner, and session bass player extraordinaire Gus Seyffert (Beck, Bedouine) fleshed out the recordings.

On the surface, Freedom is a reflection on growing up, childhood friends who ended up in prison or worse, male identity, McMahon’s father, and his mother, who was diagnosed with terminal cancer at the beginning of recording.

The characters that populate the musical world of Freedom are a colourful mix of reality and fantasy: father and mother, Amen Dunes, teenage glue addicts and Parisian drug dealers, ghosts above the plains, fallen surf heroes, vampires, thugs from Naples and thugs from Houston, the emperor of Rome, Jews, Jesus, Tashtego, Perseus, even McMahon himself. Each character portrait is a representation of McMahon, of masculinity, and of his past.

Yet, if anything, these 11 songs are a relinquishing of all of them through exposition; a gradual reorientation of being away from the acquired definitions of self we all cling to and towards something closer to what’s stated in the Agnes Martin quote that opens the record, “I don’t have any ideas myself; I have a vacant mind” and in the swirling, pitched down utterances of “That’s all not me” that close it.


The themes are darker than on previous Amen Dunes albums, but it’s a darkness sublimated through grooves. The music, as a response or even a solution to the darkness, is tough and joyous, rhythmic and danceable. The combination of a powerhouse rhythm section, Delicate Steve’s guitar prowess filtered through Amen Dunes heft, and Panoram’s electronic production background, makes for a special and unique NYC street record.

It’s a sound never heard before on an Amen Dunes record, but one that was always asking to emerge. Eleven songs span a range of emotions, from contraction to release and back again. ‘Blue Rose’ and ‘Calling Paul the Suffering’ are pure, ecstatic dance songs. ‘Skipping School’ and ‘Miki Dora’ are incantations of a mythical heroic maleness and its illusions. ‘Freedom’ and ‘Believe’ offer a street tough’s future-gospel exhalation, and the funk-grime grit of ‘L.A.’ closes the album, projecting a musical hint of things to come.

Released March 30th, 2018


Ace Malian four-piece Songhoy Blues are readying their debut album ‘Music In Exile’. It’ll be out on Transgressive Records and comes preceded by the first single, ‘Al Hassidi Tere’. The album is co-produced by Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Nick Zinner and Marc-Antoine Moreau. The latter discovered the band in 2013 when scouting on behalf of Africa Express – Songhoy Blues later contributed a track to the Africa Express album, ‘Maison des Jeunes’.