They've been accused of not being able to sing. Of being a fashion-first band. Of being untalented, unoriginal punk rock poseurs “trying too hard” to be some one or other.
A writer from the Yale Herald described singer Karen O's vocal capacity as “inexcusably bad, wildly careening from nasal yelp to bored warble and doing painful caricatures of every girl punk singer in the process.”
“Rock music shouldn't be this exhausting,” wrote the Herald's Samantha Culp.
Exhausting it can admittedly be, but it's the sloppy, gratifying kind of tire that comes at the end of a great fuck. There's something in the YYY's surly, prophetic anthem-the “Crimson and Clover”-tinged “Our Time” from their self-titled EP-that suggests that in the end, the Brooklyn-based trio will have the last laugh.
“It's our time to be hated,” sings O in affectedly drunken apathy. “So glad that we made it.”
A brash combination of self-deprecating wit and haughty, defiant sass, the YYYs are the quintessence of today's New York punk, which arguably does little to the sound the Ramones instituted in the '70s.
“There came a time in the late '90s when everything was being analyzed to death,” says guitarist Nick Zinner. “For us then, doing something simple, something that didn't require strenuous over-thought, felt like the most natural thing to do.
“And it was fun,” he adds, under-thinking it. “We try not to take ourselves too seriously.”
In March, a New York Times article contended that mainstream bands were indulging in experimentation while underground bands were defining themselves by an insistent purism. When the mainstream expands its sonic palette, the underground contracts, and vice versa.
Perhaps that explains the skuzzy guitar dirges, skeletal drums and simple three-chord melodies of the YYYs.
So far it's worked, instigating a frenzy among record labels now vying to represent the two-year-old band.
“The thing about a lot of the bands in this city now is that when they first started, no one cared about New York,” Zinner says. “So no one thought about getting famous. That was certainly the case for us, as it was the furthest thing from our minds.
“So there's this sincerity that comes out of the music.”
One can only wait for the release of their full-length recording-tentatively scheduled for release early next year-to see if the buzz currently surrounding them tarnishes that sincerity.