Show Your Bones
By: Eric Greenwood
No longer buoyed by underdog hero status, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs are poised for their first taste of disappointment. Not because their new album, Show Your Bones, is bad (it's not), but because the pressure to follow up the success of Fever to Tell forced them to become conscious of themselves in a way that destroys most bands.
Show Your Bones has very little in common with the blistering quasi-goth garage frenzy of Fever to Tell, a record that revealed a band searching for footing and stumbling upon gold along the way. Whereas, initially, Karen O's manic yelps and grunts thrust her band forward, she now seems to have given up control over to the music. This distinction doesn't diminish her talents; it simply conforms them to standards this band couldn't have lived up to in its infancy because it was too busy pulling its dress over its head.
Being overly sensitive to the demands of your audience versus the pull of pushing your art forward rarely leads to great records. The Strokes choked on album number two because they chickened out; they played it too safely and consequently derailed much their precious momentum. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs have bravely faced their fears and made a record that isn't afraid to fail, for better or worse.
The first single, "Gold Lion", doesn't even sound like the same band. It sounds more like Siouxsie and the Banshees trying on an indie rock hat that doesn't quite fit. It's still catchy as hell, weirdly alluring, and passively aggressive, as is much of the album. Karen O's voice cuts through the mix like a laser beam, but her hooks are sure slow to grow. Too much time in the studio has sapped much of the band's fire. Fans of the reckless spontaneity of Fever to Tell will be frustrated by Show Your Bones' calculated moves. It sounds overcooked, over-thought, and overly ambitious, but such growing pains are preferable to pandering.