Back in 2003, when Yeah Yeah Yeahs punched us in our faces with 'Fever To Tell,' nobody could've predicted the New York City band would turn out to be so modest. That first album was manic and vengeful and unapologetic, and there was a radical urgency to the songs that left the impression band members – singer Karen O, guitarist Nick Zinner, and drummer Brian Chase – had limitless songs up their sleeves. The three seemed limitlessly riotous, but that wasn't the case.
There hasn't been anything imperative about the Yeah Yeah Yeahs since 'Fever To Tell.' The band has released only four full-length albums in 10 years; the most recent, 'Mosquito,' quietly arrived last April. And, with each new song, Zinner's raging guitar playing and O's primal screaming have made way for more accessible, poppier, far-less-savagely rocking sounds. But in the band's defense, 'Fever To Tell' is one of the best albums of the 2000s, and it's not easy to live up to a classic.
Unsurprisingly, our picks for the five best YYYs songs come from the band's early years. If you disagree, please leave a comment below and tell us why we're wrong.
5. 'Gold Lion'
This first single from YYYs' second full-length, 'Show Your Bones' (2006), was a perfect introduction to that album, which featured more acoustic guitar than the band's wild, electric debut, 'Fever To Tell.' In comparison with previous work ― with the exception of 'Maps' ― 'Gold Lion' was the band's mellowest, radio-friendliest song yet. The catchy chorus and softer, cleaner production was a good sign of what the future held.
4. 'Cheated Hearts'
Another single from 'Show Your Bones,' 'Cheated Hearts' relied on a simple, sticky guitar riff. It showed YYYs effectively throwing a bit of snarl atop a straightforward pop song, integrating some choppy, shredding guitar work by Zinner and the yelping O did so well on earlier songs. And her instantly memorable (albeit uncertain) declaration, “I think I'm bigger than the sound,” gave the song a heroic, immortal vibe.
'Maps' was the only tranquil moment on YYYs' otherwise bashing, fuming debut album. Supposedly written by O about her relationship with Angus Andrew, of Liars, it displayed the band's dynamism and ability to write a ballad without losing its edge. This 'Fever To Tell' single, considered by many to be one of the best songs of the 2000s, certainly helped YYYs win a Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album.
2. 'Art Star'
Appearing on the band's eponymous debut EP in 2001, 'Art Star' was the first YYYs song many of us heard. The bopping tune began with Karen O speaking calmly but with profoundly hateful snark about being an artist, and everything quickly got thrash-y and grimy when she screamed and growled the song title. She made being an artist sound like hell.
1. 'Date With The Night'
'Date With The Night,' the first 'Fever To Tell' single got everything right. The band was in now-or-never, no-holds-barred mode. O was romancing the night and walking on water when the three united for a stabbing, venomous chorus. It was aggressive, but danceable. “I'll set you, I'll set it off,” threatened a howling O. Then she burnt it all down.