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Is Is

The first new material from New York’s finest avant garde trio since last year’s superb Show Your Bones album, Is Is isn’t a new album, unfortunately.

Rating: 9 / 10

John Walshe, 16 Aug 2007

The first new material from New York’s finest avant garde trio since last year’s superb Show Your Bones album, Is Is isn’t a new album, unfortunately. Instead it’s a five-track EP of songs written during the tour for their debut album, Fever To Tell in 2004, and aired frequently during subsequent live shows. The result is far from polished: in fact, it’s probably the most brutally visceral material we’ve yet heard from Karen O, Brian Chase and Nick Zinner.

Opener ‘Rockers To Swallow’ is a caterwauling cacophony of staccato drums, crunchy, meaty guitar riffs and that O scream, and is as likely to alienate long-time fans as win new listeners over to their cause. Personally, I think it’s brilliant: imagine The Pixies’ ‘U Mass’ and the Beastie Boys’ ‘Sabotage’ put into a blender, and served with an early 1980s-era Debbie Harry/Siouxie Sioux on vocals. Deliciously raucous.

Stand-out track ‘Down Boy’ is far more accessible, with Karen O’s deliberately understated verses leading into the kind of slinky chorus which this trio seem able to write in their sleep but most of their contemporaries would trade their skinny jeans for. Effortlessly infectious, this could easily have been one of the highlights on Show Your Bones.

‘Kiss Kiss’ is a four-to-the-floor punk wig-out, heavy on the rifferama and low on subtlety, but enjoyable nonetheless, while the title-track of sorts, ‘Isis’, is a slow-burning classic, all scorching guitar licks and military-style drum tattoos, with O’s distinctively primordial howl rarely sounding so seductive. Closer ‘10 x 10’ lulls you into a false sense of security, starting off like it’s going to be a tender affair, before morphing into a mid-paced stomper, heavy on pounding bass-drums and tremelo guitar effects.

All in all, Is Is may prove an inaccurate reference point for their next album, but as stop-gaps go, this is formidable stuff indeed, and a rare opportunity to hear the stars of last year’s Electric Picnic at their rawest.

Rating: 9 / 10
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