Monday, March 27, 2006
Show Your Bones
Yeah Yeah Yeahs
** of *****

Sugar Ray. The band. Whoa, ok. Admittedly, that sure is a weird way to start a review. But stay with me here. Do you remember when Sugar Ray first started out? Yeah, they were basically a goofy hard rock/alt-rock band, unrecognizable from the rest. But then, in 1997, they put out that damned "Fly" song and their lives instantly changed. From there on out they released only radio-friendly pop. Why? Well, arguably, they discovered what worked for them. They found what made them stars. I mean, they obviously enjoyed what they were doing so it wasn't like they were whoring themselves out just to make a buck, but I'll bet the change in their style was somewhat influenced by their new found pop stardom.

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, let us consider the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Their first couple of EPs were your basic noise rock efforts and being fronted by the wacky Karen O almost gave them a riot grrl edge, minus the political bend of course. Then they signed to a major and released Fever To Tell and, at first, it didn't exactly blow up. MTV was playing "Date With The Night" a bit and the next single "Pin" even less. But it was with the magnificent "Maps" that the YYYs became household names, and rightfully so. It's still a good song that perfectly captures the desperateness of being separated with someone you love. But, could it be that the YYYs are now gonna follow Sugar Ray's lead? Furthermore, did I just seriously ask that?

It's no secret how much Karen O wants to be a star and it would seem that her and her band have realized what that might take. Show Your Bones sails the course sets by "Maps." And, the seas of melodicism welcome YYYs, but with mixed results. The album begins with the single "Gold Lion" and that song makes it clear from the start that this isn't the Yeah Yeah Yeahs you're used to. They have fully embraced sharper and cleaner production. Gone is Karen O's silly vocal freak-outs. In all honesty, I see this as a welcome change. There was always something a tiny bit annoying about it. But does all of this new accessibility work?

"Gold Lion" is a nice opener and, as I said, it serves as their mission statement. The song itself is nothing special, but it is catchy. Ah, so far they're following their new doctrine. "Way Out" comes next and nicely continues the path of more melodic interests. But the next couple tracks are where the band starts to loose steam. "Fancy" glides through with mediocrity and "Phenomena" is just down right embarrassing (yes, she does actually sing "something like a phenomena" in this).

Though the melodicism and cleaner production works pretty well for the band, it's kind of like "so what?" The melodies and harmonies don't grab you as hard as they could and Nick Zinner's soaring guitar work is relatively dumbed down for this album. So while Zinner's signature noodling is not really at the forefront, the focus is shifted to Karen O, and I'm not sure it's a very effective arrangement.

The album does have brighter spots though. "Dudley" is the closest the album comes to the purity of "Maps." Karen's vocals and melodies coupled with the band's glistening-to-heavy guitar and the solid drums all work together to make a memorable and sincere performance. "Mysteries" is the only song that features any Karen O freak-outs and that isn't really until the end of the song. Though it doesn't fit very much with the rest of the album, it is kind of a nice deviation. However, from there on out the album gets a little dull and never fully recovers.

Whether or not the Yeah Yeah Yeahs go the way of Sugar Ray remains to be seen. If Show Your Bones is their turning point, it isn't a very promising one. Though, all promise for the future aside, there are patches on this album that serve as decent pop to be enjoyed for a short period of time. I could make another comparison: The Go-Go's. They started out as a punk band, ya know... oh, nevermind.

[video] Gold Lion
[web] Yeah Yeah Yeahs
[myspace] Yeah Yeah Yeahs
[itunes] Downloads

Michael Long

Contributing Writer

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