Cool It Down

Band: Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Album: Cool It Down
Best song: “Wolf” and “Spitting Off the Edge of the World”
Worst song: “Mars.”

I do not have kids. I’ve gone over this fact in this space before (and if you know me personally, you’ve probably heard me joke about it and some of the hijinks around it that touch my romantic life) and nothing has changed since I wrote about it more than ten years ago.

It’ll mostly chalk it up to the usual things that other millennials chalk it up to, from financial difficulties to a broken brain to whatever, but the easiest excuse (and one that climate writers have enumerated a million times) is that Americans consume exponentially more resources than children born in other countries. We burn more carbon and our babies will, too. Why would I want to inflict that on the world?

I’ve claimed this and the other reasons above, but it does bring me to the fact that the environmental impact is something people do keep in mind when talking about having children, even if it is not entirely sincere.


The Earth is dying. You surely know this if you are on the damned Internet and you’ve seen the various versions of doomerism (my preferred way of thought), optimism (tech will save us!), blame-shifting (to individuals, to politicians, to corporations, to the global north, to financial institutions, etc.) and compromise (maybe we can build everything on stilts?!). But, the fact remains: the atmosphere is warming, the oceans are poisoned and extreme weather events are becoming more frequent. (By the way, how fucked is it that Soylent Green, a 1973 movie based on a 1966 book was flagging this stuff back then? Yes, the book notes a lot of racist “overpopulation” bullshit, but the themes of soil degradation, ocean warming and other environmental dangers were a part of the conversation sixty years ago and we’re still burning fossil fuels)

Cool It Down is the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ attempt to reckon with this. Karen O has mentioned in interviews that the band’s comeback album is (“When we were writing, things flooded out of me lyrically that became climate-crisis-related, but the feeling was that of beauty.”) decidedly about environmental degradation and what she will leave for her son. As such, the record is both universal and of the moment; “Different Today” dances around the lyric “Oh, how the world keeps on spinnin’/It goes spinnin’ out of control,” which could just as much be about the death of the planet as it is about personal chaos.

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs are the band that has had the most staying power out of the Meet Me in the Bathroom-era New York bands (The Strokes have released one classic record and some stray good songs, Ryan Adams is a sex pest, Vampire Weekend faded, etc.). The band’s albums all have one anthemic song, a testament to the songwriting prowess of the trio. Karen O’s a magnetic performer and a deft lyricist; “Maps” is arguably the best sad love song of the era and any live version is better than what’s on the record. Cool It Down comes more than two decades from when I saw them on one of their first tours and nearly 20 years after Fever To Tell broke them nationwide.

The band is more mature, for sure. The record draws more from the disco-ish keyboards of It’s Blitz than the raucous punk rock of Fever to Tell or the big stadium anthems of Show Your Bones. But,Cool It Down also speaks to the aging process; the slowed down dreaminess of “Lovebomb” is washed in atmosphere keyboards, a deliberate drum and a near-spoken Karen O vocal. “Wolf” has the perfect dynamics of an action movie score, with melodies cutting like knives and Karen O using her best

But, the record is also not without noting the exigence of the moment. The record’s two singles both directly address the impending death of the planet. “Burnin’” has a title invoking the predicament in which we find ourselves, while the song’s breakdown has Karen O repeating “Whatcha gonna do when you get to the water?”

The album’s lead track and first single, of course, is even more overt. “Spitting Off the Edge of the World ” comes in like a climax as Karen O intones “Cowards, here’s the sun, So bow your heads” as a command as old as time. The sun is our centerpiece, but also our downfall (though because we have misused the planet), the lyrics intone, but the doom-filled lyrics are presented by Karen O and company in a way that sounds downright hopeful.

We’re spitting off the edge of the world
Out in the night
Never had no chance
Nowhere to hide
Spitting off the edge of the world
Out comes the sun
Never had no chance
Nowhere to run

In lieu of Nick Zinner’s guitars, the track expands into a symphony of synths and layered Karen O vocals (with a big assist from Perfume Genius) as the cinematic nature of the record builds. It’s the blend of optimism for the future and clear-eyes about the now. In lieu of bombast, the band has chosen a style of thoughtfulness that is beautiful.

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  • About Me

    I'm Ross Jordan Gianfortune. I am not a writer, but I sometimes write here about music and my life. I live in Washington, DC.

    I used to review each of Rolling Stone Magazine's top 500 albums of all time. Now I'm writing about albums I own.

    My work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Gazette, The Atlantic, Sno-Cone and a bunch of defunct zines.

    You can contact me at rjgianfortune at gmail dot com.

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