Halfway between Fever to Tell's saucy rave-ups and the somber, slower sound of Show Your Bones, the Is Is EP is a welcome reminder of how potent the Yeah Yeah Yeahs are when they're firing on all cylinders. It also reaffirms that the Yeah Yeah Yeahs may be at their best on their EPs: Is Is delivers sleekly nasty rockers and vulnerable moments that are often more focused than the band's album tracks. Though the songs here are balanced between the extremes of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' sound, their performances sound wilder than they have in a while, and the production -- which is neither too raw nor overcooked with studio fussing -- shows them off perfectly. "Tell Me What Rockers to Swallow" is savage and spare, taking hairpin turns from precision to chaos as Karen O unleashes vocals befitting her rep as one of the iconic women in rock of the 2000s. Nick Zinner and Brian Chase sound just as fiery and inspired on "Kiss Kiss," one of the soaring, earnest songs the Yeah Yeah Yeahs deliver from time to time just to show that they're not too cool to sound excited. Is Is's slower songs keep the energy and focus of the louder tracks: despite its dominatrixy title, "Down Boy" sounds a little like a slowed-down version of Show Your Bones' "Phenomenon" -- or even a little bit like a much slower cover of Franz Ferdinand's "Take Me Out" -- and "10 X 10" shows that O's prettier style of singing can fit into the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' sound just as well as her feral side. Not surprisingly, Is Is' title track is the standout, a majestic, fiery, and heartbroken epic that feels like the opposite of "Maps." Most of the songs here were written in the time between Fever to Tell and Show Your Bones and seemed to disappear after they were previewed on the Tell Me What Rockers to Swallow concert DVD, so it's nice to see them get a proper release. Is Is may not be the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' most immediately accessible music, but it is some of their most compelling work in some time.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares