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coverpic flag US - New York - Full Moon 117 - 04/13/06

Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Show Your Bones
Interscope Records

Some people are just sickened by media whores, no matter how sexually livid, anti-establishment, lackluster, or philanthropic their intentions may be. I should know, I'm one of them. In 2003, Karen O's smeared make-up sluttiness put her and her New York trio on the covers of too many magazines. It didn't matter how corrosively brilliant their fuzz-garage epic Fever To Tell was; it didn't warrant that kind of lop sided applause. Unfortunately, she figured this out the hard way by getting media shell shock after a British publication put out a cover shot looking up her skirt. Such people that I've mentioned might be perplexed and think, "Well fuck! Her cooter shows up every other month in Spin... What's the big deal?" Nonetheless, this has turned Karen O into a well clothed, reclusive, maybe even disturbed, definitely more careful female rock icon. This makes these kinds of bah-humbug-to-indie-band-wagon aficionados cream their pants. For them, Fever to Tell is something of an obligation, but an album like Show Your Bones is a definite essential.

It's as if that shell of crossed Christine Cervenka with a crack whore has been shaved, nay, raped off her psyche. Subsequently, Bones spends most of it's time scribing and declaring the culprit. No more "Be my heater be my lover/and we can do it to eachother" but there is something about "not being invited". Sounds like there was a really out-of-whack party that night, and Fever was it's musical record, Show Your Bones could be the girl-boy drama of the weeks after.

The question is: Who did this? Who's the dude that took it a tad too far? Whether that bastard is an actual ex-lover, guitarist Nick Zinner, drummer Brian Chase, the press, or some combination of any and all, Karen Orzalek doesn't unleash a full assault. She's too hurt, leaving it to a dog fight between Yeahs Zinner, Chase, and Squeak E. Clean to get which sophomore motif to procede with. None of them actually win, and an orgy of acousto-electro-proto-death-pop ensues.

From the sound of the very thick and perfectly polished lead single, "Gold Lion" the group takes a heavy left hook at the Ashley Simpson/Lavigne/Clarkson territory that has ripped their form. The immense, livid expansion is not desperate where it's counteracted by a humbled and sedated lead observer. Her documentation is what's key. The obvious incantation is stairing at us in the face so let's say it: it's not a Blood on the Tracks, and it divinely never tries. Yet in the same way you get invited to a half-story, because whether it's there or not you imagine the process; you give the un-concept album a plot line anyway.

That narrative is shown to be uniquely feminine, and far different from any male counterpart. Dylan wanted to make things happen-that's part of masculinity, he felt stunted and confused, dove into metaphors. Bones delights in not feeling comfortable trying to make things happen, unwonted things happen to her: "Bed wetting son of the great heat/It's all over me/It's all under me/The face ain't making what the mouth needs" (from "Way Out"). You get as much oozy sex, frustrated lack of control, and female genitalia covered in abstract mastery here as any with any pissed off Adrienne Rich, Charlotte Bronte, Emily Dickinson, or what have you. Now that is a far cry from the rich bitch walking on water from Fever, an even farther shot from the reclusive metaphors that comes with a Dylan wanna be, and on the other side of the galaxy of Beck's recent aching nostalgia.

Later we get an even better glimpse: "It's getting to sound like they seen you around with her/No mysteries no mystery no mysteries/Every one knows the secret is code of mine/They'll tell all my friends and they'll tell all my enemies too" (from "Mysteries"). Jealousy and mad desire all carefully blended with a hardcore maelstrom. After spending six tracks sonically mastering Franz Ferdinand, X, The Flaming Lips, and all their American Idol contemporaries, they might as well take a swing Lightning Bolt on the way out. Who is this? And what did she do to that ambiguous, maybe incestual pale skinned thing three years ago?

You can call her and thank her for me, Show Your Bones is the result of a divine and yet excitingly disturbing metamorphosis. Few times are such follow up records so tastefully unforgiving; so brilliantly toed on the line dividing expansionist pop and a middle finger/facetiously blown kiss to the in-crowd. Even far more seldom than these circumstances is the "it-band" second album slump so tactfully averted. The Strokes were on deck for this rejeuvanation making Room on Fire, settling for Is This It part 2-they struck out. Luck favors the bolder, the broken hearted, and The Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Just wait til round 3...

Copyright © 2006 Matthew DeMello e-mail address

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