Scuzz Sundays: The Yeah Yeah Yeah’s – “Y-Control”

Are we still giving this a yeah yeah yeah – or will it be a no no no?… It’s Scuzz Sunday!

Another week, another Scuzz Sunday! My name is Jacob Braybrooke, and we’ve reached the end of the week, and that means it’s time to pay tribute to the late-great Scuzz TV channel with an in-depth listen back to one of the genre-defining Emo-Rock or Goth-Rock relics from between the late-1990’s and the mid-2000’s, to see how they sustain their weight in our more modern times. Formed in New York City in 2000, The Yeah Yeah Yeah’s have maintained a decent popularity with alternative music fans since the years of their peak heyday. Taking their name from the slang language of modern New York City, the Garage-Punk revivalist trio – led by Karen O – have earned nominations for the Grammy Award of Best Alternative Music Album for each of their three subsequent albums. “Y-Control” was the final single to be released from 2003’s “Fever To Tell”, their debut LP, which was produced by Dave Sitek (TV On The Radio, Little Dragon, Celebration) and mixed by Alan Moulder. I remember the group being popular enough to take the stage of BBC’s Top Of The Pops when that still existed, and “Fever To Tell” has sold over one million units worldwide. “Y-Control” was also used for the soundtrack for the video game – “Dirt 2”. Let’s ‘Dial D for Devotion’ below.

The title of “Y-Control” refers to the emotional control of a female, referring to the Y male chromosone, but it could also be read as a reference to “P-Control”, an abbreviation for the name of the track “Pussy Control”, by Prince. That explains why the music video was controversial for it’s disturbing imagery, and it received rather muted MTV airplay at the time, due to these haunting pictures of children carrying the corpse of a dog. The single was still highly acclaimed by critics, and Pitchfork listed the track as the 213th best song of the decade regardless. The most glaring sound of the track is the bass guitar chords, which are absolutely drenched in the heavy feedback and high reverberation effects. Karen O opens with: “Oh so, all my loving goes, Under the fog, and I will leave them all, Well I’m just a poor little baby, Cause, well, I believe them all” with a downtempo and gritty pitch, while a juxtaposition can be spotted between the squelching, high-pitched New-Wave synths and the discordant, heavy guitar instrumentation. The bridge of “I wish I could buy back, The woman you stole” precedes the bombastic echoes of the static noises. The lyrics are vague, especially in the chorus, where Karen O chants: “Why-control, Why-control/You walk, walk, walk, walk, my winners” above the fast-paced, frenetic element of the drum riffs that evoke an ‘Indie floor-filler’ style to counteract the somber vocal delivery. In the process, the aggressive qualities of Karen O’s vocals are taut, methodical and controlled. It somewhat echoes the chilling sentimentality of The Pixies, with grammatically incorrect sentences and gargled syncopation, in the lead guitar performance, adding to the ‘broken’ and ‘disturbed’ sub-meaning of the track. All in all, I don’t think the abrasive lead guitar work and the distorted synth instrumentation are going to be within the wheelhouse of every listener, but I don’t think that commercial accessibility is at the top of the band’s list of priorities. We are left with a sad, earnest track instead that cleverly echoes the work of past Garage-Rock bands and early Indie Punk bands to a clever degree, while distorting these elements to bring a fresh twist to the formats – I’m still giving this a ‘Yeah, Yeah, Yeah’.

There’s all the murder she wrote today! Of course, I’m not willing to let you down tomorrow. Check back in with me again then – where we’re going to be going for a similar style of distorted guitar riffs and emotionally driven, harsh songwriting – albeit from an emerging, hot-off-the-press act. This single comes from an indie trio from Worthing who like describe their own sound as “mosh-pit worthy noise for the paranoid age”, and their single, “So What”, was featured on the soundtrack for the recent Ubisoft open-world video game “Watch Dogs Legion”. If you really liked what you just read, why not follow the blog to get notified when every new daily post is up and why not like the Facebook page here?: https://www.facebook.com/OneTrackAtATime/

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