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Yeah Yeah Yeahs: Meet Rock’s New Queen of Cool

Led by a bruised, beer-spitting, New York-conquering femalesuperhero, Yeah Yeah Yeahs are one of the most exciting rockgroups of the past ten years. And guess what? They’reactually getting kind of popular! Here’s the story of howthree quirky cool kids made it to the big time–no compromises, nosellouts, no regrets.

Led by a bruised, beer-spitting, New York-conquering female superhero, Yeah Yeah Yeahsare one of the most exciting rock groups of the past ten years. Andguess what? They’re actually getting kind of popular! Here’s the storyof how three quirky cool kids made it to the big time–no compromises,no sellouts, no regrets.

Buried deep in the crowd is aslight and almost Druidic female figure with a black hooded sweatshirtpulled down over her eyes. She’s been anonymously swilling Coronas forabout an hour. As Har Mar takes the stage, stomach bulging comicallyover his track pants, the woman quietly disappears. The show grindson-the singer strips down to his green briefs and tries to French kissgirls in the front row. Then, suddenly, a surprise guest is announced:Karen O of Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

The silver curtains behind Har Mar part and the woman in thehooded sweatshirt stands transformed, high-kicking like a spasticRockette in a backless, blue, terry-cloth hot-pants leotard. Three12-inch Slim Jim meat snacks poke out from the front of her outfit.She’s got a long post-mullet snaking down her spine, hair cut short onthe sides, and her face is twisted into a bizarre grin. Looking bothbeautiful and ridiculous, she sings a track called “Cut Me Up,” endingsplayed in a half-assed split. Raising both arms, she screams, “JackieFarry!” Then, fumbling with the curtains, she awkwardly makes her wayoffstage.

There have been comparatively few female rock stars, andfewer still whose resumes don’t read like tragic falls from grace. ButKaren O–flamboyant, thoughtful, not backed by an armada of imagehandlers–has an answer for all that. With her art-damaged,morning-after prom dresses, slathered-on makeup, andperformance-induced cuts and bruises, she’s Iggy Pop for shy nerds whowant to get loose. A Yeah Yeah Yeahs show is rawness choreographed:Karen’s face contorts as she rolls around the stage, ripping at herclothes. She spits beer on the audience, pours it over her head, andsticks the microphone in her mouth. She exudes femininity on the vergeof madness and elation, while guitarist Nick Zinner’s melodic sheets ofnoise and Brian Chase’s subtle but rowdy drums provide a perfectlylurching backdrop. Her enigmatic lyrics, which always seem to be aboutthe eternal messiness of sex and romance, are a haywire conduit forpure emotion. She’s confident enough to go out to the edge, and tobring us with her.

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