Wednesday, April 12, 2006


Yeah Yeah Yeahs . . . Yeah!

by Wayne Robins

I certainly liked the Yeah Yeah Yeahs 2003 debut album, "Fever to Tell," but didn't see where the band was going to go from there. Like too many 21st century bands, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs made their positioning statement, but I expected the novelty of Karen O's alt-yodeling to wear out its welcome.

Which is why its such a surprise that the new "Show Your Bones" (Interscope) hooked me from the start, and hasn't let go. This is a band that appears to have gone against convention and worked on its craft (and its art) rather than just making branding and marketing deals the last few years. (Though as David Fricke points out in his Rolling Stone review, album opener and rock song of the year so far "Gold Lion" is named after an advertising industry prize.) Drummer Brian Chase, guitarist Nick Zinner and Ms. O have developed a bold sound that's both in your face and knows its place. On the White Stripe-y "Fancy," they build a wall of sound and then smash it down. Chase especially shines, playing with the reckless vigor of Keith Moon on "Phenomena" and "Honeybear."

Zinner, meanwhile, has been playing with Bright Eyes, according to Q magazine. But it sounds like he's been internalizing Glenn Branca's "Symphony for 100 Guitars" and learning to play it all himself simultaneously. And yet he picks his spots carefully: Check the power surge on "Way Out" and the way he takes it away when Karen gives him the cue to "take it away" on "Mysteries." Props to producer Sam Spiegel for allowing each song to find its own balance between noise and finesse.

Speaking of which, who knew Karen O would blossom so quickly into a singer with so many graceful moves? Not only has she transcended the squeal, she's become adept at conserving energy, conveying the considerable amount of honest emotion in the surprising variety and richness of the songs. More art, less artifice. You've got to say "yeah" to that.

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