Show Your Bones
Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Rock's most expressive vocal/guitar combo expand their sound.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs' 2003 debut, Fever To Tell, boasted an unmistakable arc from spontaneous noise-tune to full-fledged song. It was the sound of a band in the act of becoming. That kind of drama is never repeated and rarely topped, which is why this follow-up is a far less exciting record. Fever To Tell climaxed late with "Maps" -- the most moving guitar-rock love song in recent memory -- and though Show Your Bones picks up where Fever To Tell left off with a batch of artfully expansive pop songs, there's no "Maps" this time around.
But if Show Your Bones lacks its predecessor's conceptual focus or lyrical specificity, it's more than worthy on musical/emotional terms. Karen O and Nick Zinner are perhaps the most expressive vocal/guitar duo in rock right now, Karen O exchanging her squawky Tourette's-syndrome rants for lovesick croons and Zinner's previous attention-deficit-disorder guitar giving way to unexpected acoustic foundations. The constant is drummer Brian Chase, completing the trick by making the music danceable without any disco or funk pretensions.
Karen O's rep is as an unapproachable hipster goddess, and perhaps her photos convey that image, but her singing sure doesn't. Here she's as vulnerable as she is swaggering, too emotionally open and playful to be merely cool. The songs don't lash out anymore, but despite the surface conventionality, they still betray straight readings. Lyrics such as "Wonder more/Want more/Than we did before" may not immediately mean something to you, but they mean something to Karen O. And on moments like the one on "Cheated Hearts" when Zinner lays bell-like guitar hooks over one of Karen O's wordless vocal refrains, it's a grace note that defies verbalization. -- Chris Herrington