Album Reviews: Show Your Bones by Yeah Yeah YeahsAfter jumping from NYC art-punk chaos to the major labels and releasing Fever to Tell, led by breakout single "Maps," Yeah Yeah Yeahs ascended to that rarified air where fans debate the merits of Karen O's latest haircut and compare notes on guitar master Nick Zinner's latest gear acquisitions. The band blasted out of the gates with manic, cacophonous energy and a live show that veered toward performance art. But as the nearly three years passed between Fever to Tell and Show Your Bones, the blogger buzz was that the bewitching Karen O had undergone a "Gwen Stefanization."
Nonsense. The growth shown on Show Your Bones is just that: growth. This isn't a reinvention record, although fair warning should be issued to fans hungry for only the arm-swinging, straight-ahead charge of older songs like "Date with the Night." At least half of Show Your Bones is relatively mellow, and its closing third taps into some blues and tumbleweed twang, often leaving Karen O sounding rather naked and vulnerable vocally -- to varying results. Much more than a Stefanization, there are a few songs that suggest a Tegan & Sara-ization -- a side showcased prominently on the acoustic verses of album opener and lead single "Gold Lion."
Restraint and refinement are relatively new colors in the YYY's palette, and they sometimes apply it erratically. In a few cases, like "The Sweets," the minimalist end product doesn't stick. Other times, they nail it, like on closer "Turn Into," a pretty pop song that's set apart by the ache of the vocal, Brian Chase's body-shaking percussion, and a wild, vaguely sci-fi guitar part that pops out mid-song like a jack-in-the-box. The live show is obviously a different beast, but on the album, Karen O is equaled if not outshone by Zinner, who tears into one memorable hook after another, spanning an impressive range of styles.
They can still rip it up, too, as on the caterwauling climax of "Mysteries." Other louder highlights include the spastic "Way Out" and the get down and dirty rocker "Phenomena," which half-cribs a hook from an old LL Cool J jam. - Adam McKibbin, The Red Alert
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