- The Washington Times - Monday, March 27, 2006

Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Show Your Bones


In the image-obsessed world of rock, there’s no such thing as too much attitude. New York rockers the Yeah Yeah Yeahs are well aware of this, and their latest record, “Show Your Bones,” arrives fully loaded with plenty of their signature hipster swagger. But this is no mere facade; the band packs far more than thrift-store threads and an arsenal of sneers.

On their sophomore album and major label debut, the band hurtles through 11 case studies in garage-band eloquence, mixing dive-bar grit with subtle studio trickery. Sometimes intimate, sometimes fiery, but always brazenly confident, “Show Your Bones” plants a bold, raucous indie flag in major-label territory.

“Show Your Bones” may fly under the banner of a major, but it doesn’t have the high-gloss sound one might expect. Yet neither is it marred by the thin, low-fi production of many independent releases. Instead, co-producer Sam Spiegel has given the band a booming, fuzzed-out quality, infusing both the rawness and immediacy of a rehearsal space into every track.

Nick Zinner’s guitar lines buzz with a mechanized drone, alternately diving deep into low-end grooves and sparkling with crystalline highs. Brian Chase’s drumming anchors the band, keeping the songs in line when they threaten to spin out of control.

This is fortunate because the edge of control is exactly where singer and bassist Karen O. likes to play. Leading the band through its paces like a fire-breathing cult leader, she dominates the album with her sultry, seductive act.

Eschewing all sorts of chick-rock stereotypes, Karen O. is neither effete nor belligerent. Instead, she is utterly commanding and manipulative. She grabs listeners by their collars and hauls them off for a close-up tour of her emotional universe, zipping between tender sentiment, distanced musing and out-of-control antics.

On “Show Your Bones,” she’s a wild-eyed indie rock prom queen. Every song is a come-on through which she struts and poses in the very best rock star tradition, and nearly every song is a standout.

“Gold Lion,” the album’s opener and first single, marches out of the gate with a simple, patient drumbeat and start-stop guitar lines. “Way Out” follows with a steady-strummed rhythm that builds into a big, swinging anvil of a riff.

Karen O.’s biggest freakout comes late in the album, on “Mysteries.” The song starts with a peppy, galloping beat and slowly amps up the tension until it explodes into a blast of screams and chaos.

All the thrashing and yelping seem to take their toll: The next song, “The Sweets,” sounds weary and worn. Instead of the forthright declarations that mark “Mysteries,” this song merely asks a series of vaguely connected melancholy questions.

The album’s best track, “Phenomena,” starts with a sharp drumbeat and proceeds to churn through an alternating series of droning grooves and swirling, ethereal breakdowns.

On “Cheated Hearts,” Karen O. sings, “Sometimes I think I’m bigger than the sound.” She couldn’t be more accurate.

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