Cool It Down is something of a misnomer. The first album from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs since 2013 fumes, seethes, smokes, smirks. It’s not the polemic that acerbic lead single Spitting Off the Edge of the World, a collaboration with Los Angeles indie luminary Perfume Genius, may have suggested. But it’s not placid, either: minimalist and, at only eight tracks, intensely focused, it crackles with furious energy, a slow-motion film of combusting fireworks.
Lead singer Karen O is known for her incandescent live performance style, her pursuit of a bodily exorcism that is dazzling and dangerous. Here, more than ever, it feels as if she is transferring that spirit into the band’s music. Writing with few words, she channels something raw and spiritual – chanting the word “time” over and over on Lovebomb as if to convey the shortness of it, asking “whatcha gonna do?” on Burning like a cruel taunt to those enmeshed in climate denialism.
Years off, during which she had a child, have made O a more incisive and generous writer; some songs, such as Spitting and Burning, feel almost callous in their intensity. They’re countered by Mars, the song’s closing lullaby, on which she murmurs lyrics about the moon in a dazed spoken-word: “I watched my favourite show tonight / The dance the light does / On the sea’s ever shifting surface …” There is more than a shade of the late David Berman’s work with the Avalanches here, a similar awestruck love for the world and for natural beauty. It’s a song that suggests O is not seeking to take the world to task or hold it to account, but to simply show it as it is – a portrait taken in the heat of the moment.