Show Your Bones
3 of 5 Stars
Once the epitome of New York City chic, Yeah Yeah Yeahs burst onto the scene in 2000, becoming the next-big-thing even before they had released a second EP. The buzz they generated landed the band a superb producer, TV on the Radio’s David Andrew Sitek, for their first complete album, 2003’s “Fever to Tell.”
Buttressed by singles “Maps” and “Y Control,” the album was deservedly showered with critical praise and even nominated for a Grammy. The record—bass-free, fuzzy, immediate in its sound and pounding groove, and high on sexy singer Karen O’s siren call—was a huge indie-dancefloor hit.
It’s a shame, then, that the “Show Your Bones,” the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s sophomore album, does not match their debut. The best songs on it lack the outstanding emotional performances and song-writing talents displayed on “Fever.”
The new record is by no means poor—half the tracks are quite good, and four are genuinely impressive. It’s just that they follow, and do not live up to, the raw sexual energy and dark romanticism of the band’s impressive debut.
To be commended on the new record are the bittersweet vocal harmonies of “Fancy,” the twangy-pop of “Turn Into,” the seductive layered guitar riffs and stationary melody in “Cheated Hearts,” and the focused, wavering, psychedelic beauty of “Dudley,.”
Half the tracks, on the other hand, such as “Mysteries,” “Sweets,” and “Warrior,” are limp and to be skipped.
Three years is a long time to write and record an album. Other bands have done much more in much less time; what went wrong with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs? One possibility is the direction of producer Squeak E Clean, under whom the Yeahs abandoned the roomy, live sound of their debut record. This release finds them with a more heavily-produced, contained sound, much to the new record’s detriment.
Another possibility is that their creative fire has simply dimmed. While their debut’s material was written on the move around first gigs in New York, for the new album, the trio relocated to an L.A. studio for two intense, stressful months of studio-writing. The process was filled with pressure and self-doubt, as the band has revealed in interviews— feelings that are evident in the new record’s sound.
Though “Bones” attempts to present focused, mature, cleaned-up songs, the writing sounds like a band that is dehydrated and worn out after intensive touring. The strongest song on the new album, “Cheated Hearts,” with gorgeous chord turns that evokes the group’s biggest hit, “Maps,” is actually an old song that the band have been playing live for at least two years, clear evidence that the band’s writing talents have diminished.
Though it features a handful of strong tracks, “Show Your Bones” is burdened by dull guitar riffs, plodding acoustic guitars, slow-tempos and down-trodden lyrics. Previously known for their fantastic live shows, they will need all their skills to maintain that reputation while playing such lackluster new material.