Category: Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Karen O dumbs down and goes country for the 'Jackass 3D' soundtrack

Jack pic 

Thanks to the song’s use in the opening credits of “Jackass,” the jangly four-note guitar intro to the Minutemen’s 1984 “Corona” has become inextricably linked in the public imagination
with joke stunts, toilet humor and dangerous tomfoolery.

But fans and completists of “Jackass” -- which marks its 10th anniversary with the release of the movie “Jackass 3D” on Friday -- know the song that truly encapsulates the franchise’s blithe, never-say-die je ne sais quoi is actually Roger Allan Wade’s “If You’re Gonna Be Dumb.”

Wade, who is chief donkey Johnny Knoxville’s cousin, wrote and performs the song that was first heard in connection with “Jackass” over the end credits of 2002’s “Jackass: The Movie.” Offering a homespun view of loserdom and a heartfelt philosophical acceptance of idiocy and failure, the country tune details how its singer “lit [his] brain on rot-gut whiskey” and “took advice no fool would take,” en route to learning “how to swallow pride.”

Wade’s worldview is laid particularly bare in the song’s chorus:

If you’re gonna be dumb, you gotta be tough
When you get knocked down, you gotta get back up
I ain’t the sharpest knife in the drawer but I know enough
-- to know
If you’re gonna be dumb, you gotta be tough

In 2006, the Redondo Beach quartet the Smut Peddlers updated “If You’re Gonna Be Dumb” as a blistering punk cri de Coeur. And now, with the release of a third movie, producer Spike Jonze enlisted his ex-girlfriend, Karen O, the yowling frontwoman for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs,  to reboot the song again.

“I wanted it to be in the end credits because I love the feeling of it,” Jonze said last week. “We were thinking, ‘Who would do it who could bring different emotion and sentiment to it?’ And then instantly, we though Karen would be amazing.”

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Miley Cyrus will have to wait for her Grammy

Miley Cyrus' "The Climb" helped her cross over into a Nashville audience, but it won't net her a Grammy. The song has been removed from contention at the 2010 Grammy Awards because it was determined that the tune was not written specifically for the film "Hannah Montana: The Movie."

The slot then goes to the song that's next in line, in terms of votes, and that would be Karen O and the Kids' "All Is Love" from "Where the Wild Things Are." The film's director, Spike Jonze, broke the news, posting an e-mail of congrats from an Interscope employee. 

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LOLcats Now Has Music Reviews, Part 3: Muse, Kings of Leon and Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Sadly, our LOLcat music reviews have come to an end.

Don't cry! Kristyn Pomranz and Katherine Steinberg, the brains behind "I Can Has Cheezburger: The MusicLOL!," an off-Broadway production based on the popular blog about silly kitties with misspelled captions, bring us their last set of critical cat pictures.

Rock 'n' roll LOLcats give us their opinions on Muse, Kings of Leon and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

We can haz musik revyooz.

Muse

Muse 

These English rockers put on a heckuva live show. And we tend to agree with the cats about their new album, "The Resistance."

What we said: "That arty intransigence often improves the band's music, as in "United States of Eurasia," which proceeds from a pretty piano-ballad intro to an Arabian-accented orchestral-rock climax. Occasionally, though, it can make Bellamy and his bandmates sound like the world's most successful sourpusses."

Click "continue reading" to see the rest of the kitties.

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Live review: KROQ's 2009 Weenie Roast goes outside the bun

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KROQ's annual Weenie Roast bash typically reflects the core tenets of the radio station's musical ethos: The '90s were alternative rock's Gilded Age, skate punk moonlights as pop music and L.A. produces one good local band every year.

But this year's event, held Saturday at Irvine's Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, showed a surprising bit of daring from the station's tastemakers, who let the toothsome dance hall punks Rancid carry the headlining slot. No Wave weirdos Yeah Yeah Yeahs delivered a strong turn, and several young L.A. bands made the case that our local indie scene still snowballs into the nation's mainstream rock.

Excepting Weezer's always-welcome volley of power-pop, the titans of the '90s were nowhere in sight.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs are probably the strangest band to earn prime Weenie Roast real estate, though they do have one genuine smash hit ("Maps") and probably another in the synth-driven single "Zero." The trio's fractured art-pop translated unexpectedly well to KROQ's beer-and-board sport crowd.

Jimmy Eat World's workmanlike emo was a more traditional fit, as the Arizona quartet has a serious fix for anthemic guitar-pop sugar. Singles like "The Middle" and "Sweetness" made strangers hoist Coors Lights to the heavens, but the band satiated its loyal MakeoutClub.com-era fans with deep cuts from its 1999 album, "Clarity."

Kings of Leon had a similar hugeness to its choruses, and even inescapable goofy love-god tunes like "Sex on Fire" and "Use Somebody" seemed refreshed by night breezes and a few thousand lighters in the air.

Rancid5_kjs332nc The grotty punk quartet Rancid has a long-anticipated new album coming out soon, but the band largely stuck to its considerable catalog of steel-toed hits like "Bloodclot" and "Roots Radicals." The band has only gained vitality with new drummer Branden Steineckert and its live set was like watching a gang of rowdy old sailors pulling into port -- singing gang-chant odes to their own longevity and spirit and maybe leaving a black eye or two in their wake.

The Airborne Toxic Event and Silversun Pickups illustrated different paths to fame (and whatever counts for fortune in today's music industry) for L.A. bands. Airborne, a new Island Def Jam acquisition, got there from its bleary Brit-rock earnestness. Silversun Pickups kicked around Silver Lake for years before striking gold with one of its oldest singles, the raspy crowd favorite "Lazy Eye." Each act was in good form at Weenie Roast, especially the Pickups, whose gauzy guitar thrash easily hit the cheap seats.

Weezer's early evening set was the one nod to the KROQ formula and while recent albums have indulged front man Rivers Cuomo's yearning to be a genuine codpiece-rock god, the band's brisk performance pleasantly reinforced why they get to play stadiums. "Say It Ain't So" and "The Good Life" still sound like nothing else on the radio.

This year's Weenie Roast, which closed out with TRV$DJ-AM offering up grindable exit music for the crowd, suggested that mainstream rock fans have broader tastes than KROQ sometimes gives them credit for. But it also proved that, sometimes, a dip in the status quo can be rather fulfilling.

-- August Brown

Photos: Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs (top) and (bottom, from left to right) Lars Frederiksen, Branden Steineckert, and Tim Armstrong of Rancid peforming at KROQ’s Weenie Roast at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre in Irvine. Christine Cotter / Los Angeles Times

Weezer, Kings of Leon and Rancid will all roast weenies for KROQ

Rivers flowing

Maybe they'll call it the Weezer Roast? Or just a Rancid Picnic?

Weezer, Kings of Leon, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Jimmy Eat World, Rancid and Silversun Pickups are among the headliners for the KROQ-FM (106.7) Weenie Roast Y Fiesta at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater on May 16.

Tickets go on sale at 5 p.m. Thursday (May 7).

The other announced acts on the bill: Cage the Elephant, Asher Roth, Anberlin, Hollywood Undead, White Lies, the Airborne Toxic Event, Big B.

The Weenie Roast began in 1993 with a show featuring Stone Temple Pilots, Dramarama, X, The The and Terence Trent D'Arby, believe it or not. Last year, Metallica, the Racontuers and the Offspring led the bill, one again reinforcing the show's Mad Libs approach to live-music booking.  

The concert is a fundraiser for a number of charities, including Heal the Bay, the Surfrider Foundation and the AIDS Services Foundation Orange County.

-- Geoff Boucher

Photo: Rivers Cuomo. Credit: Bryan Haraway / Getty Images

Coachella 2009 Day 3: Yeah Yeah Yeahs take a soft touch

Kareno In what became a running theme of this year's Coachella, art-rock heroes Yeah Yeah Yeahs brought a more subdued, reflective mood to their early evening set. Karen O, clad in shiny gold metallic dots and high-tops, mesmerized the main stage crowd with a restrained show thick with dramatic tension.

With the sun slowly setting in the background, the trio (occasionally augmented by a keyboardist) touched on all three of their albums, digging deepest into the softer side of their new album, "It's Blitz," opening with the melancholy "Runaway." The new ballad "Skeletons" was an especially evocative moment, with Karen O fully immersing herself into the song's somber mood.

When they did relieve the tension, it was in magnificent fashion. Propulsive single "Zero" crackled with even more percolating energy live, augmented by a sea of inflatable eyeballs being unleashed on the crowd. Guitarist Nick Zinner is still one of the most inventive ax-slingers of his generation, and drummer Brian Chase's lock-step dance beats kept the field jumping.

As can be expected, "Maps" was the show's most magical moment, and resulted in the sweetest sing-along of the weekend. It was a triumphant set that found the Yeah Yeah Yeahs able to control an unruly festival crowd with a kiss.

--Scott T. Sterling

Photo of Karen O. by Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles Times

Coachella: Yeah Yeah Yeahs will blitz the main stage Sunday

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The Yeah Yeah Yeahs have never been more dangerous than when they're threatening to behead everyone on the dance floor. On "Heads Will Roll," the second track on the New York trio's latest album, “It’s Blitz!” singer Karen O yelps her mandate over slabs of marbled synths: "Off, off, off with your head / Dance, dance, dance till you're dead!"

Over a recent lunch at a busy Chinese joint on Manhattan's Lower East Side, the lynx-like singer -- who will bring her band to Coachella's main stage on Sunday, a show that'll kick off more than four months of international touring -- explained why a little tough love goes a long way.

"We still have to grab people by the collar," she said, her eyes peeking out from beneath long bangs. "We put out a record every three years now; we could easily be forgotten. If you look at a lot of our peers that we came up with, a lot of them have disappeared."

Karen O, guitarist Nick Zinner and drummer Brian Chase still feel the urgency of the band's volcanic self-titled debut EP and 2003's "Fever to Tell." But they channel it anew on their third album with a steely suite of disco-era keys, processed guitars, piston-timed drumming and Karen O's vocals, which veer from vampy to achy.

The result is the band's most flagrant dance record but one with the tough tenderness of Blondie's "Parallel Lines." Chase describes it as "really celebratory and ecstatic," he said. "But we put ourselves through a heavy process to get there. It wasn't easy."

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs have courted disaster before. In 2006, the making of "Show Your Bones" prompted internal clashes as the musicians worked to add cooler tones to their fiery racket.

"We never talked about breaking up, but we all probably thought about it," Karen O said with a laugh. "But when the going gets rough, you can't just bail."

For "It's Blitz!" the band went through a few different writing phases starting in December 2007 -- those include sessions in pastoral Massachusetts and at an isolated ranch in Texas near the Mexican border.

After the initial bits of DNA emerged with the songs "Skeletons" and the laser-shimmer of "Zero," the album's synthetic sound was born.

Zinner, who's been hailed by critics as one of rock's best guitarists for his trademark chimes and snarls, branched out to play keyboards, the record's most obvious break from expectation. He also disguised his guitar turns with reverb and delay. The change made him insecure sometimes but "that was the point," he said. "The worst thing we could do at this time is rely on old tricks."

Co-producer Dave Sitek of TV on the Radio pushed them, as Karen O put it, to "foreign places we couldn't reach on our own. He's a visionary voice." Co-producer Nick Launay was heavily involved in the band's songwriting process, making sure it didn't stray too far.

"We tried a lot of things we haven't tried before," Sitek said in a phone conversation. "We recorded live drums to sound like drum machines, guitars to sound like synths. The idea was something like there's nothing left of rock and roll."

In the last few years, the band members have softened as musicians and people. Sitek, who produced the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' debut EP and album and also helped on "Show Your Bones," said that the vibe in the studio was a departure from the rowdy tension of years past.

"There was less drinking, more dancing. We're in our 30s now, it's a little different."

The New Jersey-raised Karen O, 30 and a Silver Lake denizen since 2004, is moving beyond her initial stage persona as punk vixen in tatters designed by close friend Christian Joy.

"I'm not a 21-year-old angsty self-destructive rapscallion anymore," she said. "My performance used to be centered around blitz, but now it's closer to kung fu. I try to harness the energy instead of just flying around the stage."

But the essence of blitz will never leave; it's only been redefined for now. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs are dedicated to its spirit.

"We have no allegiance to any one style," Karen O said, "only what's raw and true."

--Margaret Wappler

Photo: Jennifer S. Altman / For the Times

Album review: Yeah Yeah Yeahs's 'It's Blitz!'

Yeah_yeah_yeahs_240 "Sometimes I think I'm bigger than the sound," sang Karen O on the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' last album, 2006's "Show Your Bones." Well, now we know she is: On "It's Blitz!," O leads her bandmates in a daring reinvention of the group's music, venturing way beyond the strictures of New York revival rock into something artier, prettier and far more profound.

The first change you notice here is the absence of Nick Zinner's buzz-saw guitar, which did as much to establish the YYY sound as did O's Budweiser-banshee wail. The singer convinced Zinner to trade his beloved six-string for a synthesizer, and that gives these songs a new future-pop sheen (honed in part by Dave Sitek of TV on the Radio, who co-produced): "Skeletons" glides atop a bed of percolating Morse-code keyboard blips, and the insistent electro-funk throb in "Soft Shock" recalls classic New Order.

Even when Zinner goes back to the guitar, his playing shares little with the bare-bones garage-punk attack of yore. In "Dull Life," for example, he mirrors O's vocal melody with computer-like precision, rather than spraying noise in every available direction as he used to do.

Throughout the album, drummer Brian Chase drives the music with heightened purpose, providing a sense of destination the Yeah Yeah Yeahs have never seemed especially interested in. They come deliciously close to sounding like a straight-up disco band in "Dragon Queen," which could be Chic as fronted by Debbie Harry.

Yet "It's Blitz!" isn't just about streamlining and sophistication. These songs contain O's most expressive singing yet, and the tension between her vocal performances and the band's playing results in music richer in emotion than anything the trio has done since "Maps," its breakout hit from 2003. In such cuts as "Runaway" and "Hysteric" -- where O sings, "You suddenly complete me," over a gorgeous wash of neo-shoegaze sonics -- you're not even sure what feeling the song is producing. Hopeful anxiety? Forlorn excitement? Triumphant melancholy?

The only way to decide is to keep listening.

-- Mikael Wood

Yeah Yeah Yeahs
"It's Blitz!"
(DGC/Interscope)
Three and a half stars

Albums are rated on a scale of one to four stars.

Snap Judgment: Yeah Yeah Yeahs' 'It’s Blitz!'

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It was only a week ago that Yeah Yeah Yeahs fans were buzzing over “Zero,” the first single from the act's highly anticipated, exclamation-point-enhanced new album, "It’s Blitz!"

Loaded with swirling, colorful synthesizers that could have been lifted from a Little Boots song, “Zero” plays like the perfect soundtrack to a raucous, beer-fueled dance party, ultimately driven by a propulsive beat and singer Karen O’s signature yowl. And then bright and early this morning, the full-length album made its way onto the Internets, revealing a revitalized band -- one bouncing back from its contentious and far more eclectic sophomore effort, "Show Your Bones."

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