Even after they signed to a major, I still pictured that the Yeah Yeah Yeahs were on the indie label, Touch & Go, and not Interscope Records. Their 2003 Interscope release of the jittery and chaotic Fever To Tell helped me keep this dream, because, for the most part, there was barely anything that was mainstream on that record. While it turned off some people, more people bought into it and the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s were given the title of the “next big thing.” With the release of Show Your Bones, their second record off of Interscope, YYY drifts further away from the sound of FTT and draw nearer to a more accessible sound. But the indie fan in me is not disappointed; rather I am impressed with how YYY have progressed from their last record. Produced by Squeak E. Clean and the band, Show Your Bones have toned down the sass and added more sullenness. Someone broke vocalist Karen O’s heart between records, and oh, does that show throughout the 11-track album. Karen still has that voice that squawks and commands, but this time it possesses an aura of darkness and authority.
The first single off the album, “Gold Lion,” starts the album up. A reference to the Cannes Lions Advertising Festival in France, where YYY won the Gold Prize for Best Use of Music, this song begins with the thumping of the drums from Brian Chase and acoustic strumming from Nick Zinner. Karen O proudly sings, “Gold lion’s gonna tell me where the light is.” The song reaches climax with O proving she is the queen of the wordless sound and Zinner hitting up the distortion on his guitar. “Way Out” is a mid-paced track with a staccato rhythm that works its way into a fuzzy tantrum of guitar and drums. “Fancy” is a dark track with menacing guitar work and O’s growl on top of all of that. “Phenomena” is full of attitude, as the vocals, guitar, and drums demand all of your attention. The hook will also be stuck in your memory for a few days too, good luck trying to get that out of your head. “Honeybear” brings back the danceable momentum that was heard on FTT, while “Cheated Hearts” (which is my favorite track) repeats the same monotonous note until Zinner brings some folk-rock into the mix and O wails “Sometimes I think I’m bigger than the sound.” “Mysteries” is a giddy-up track with a little punk that gets a little crazy when O screams out “STRESS!” and Zinner belts out a nice little riff. The drumming of Chase is also superb, not only on this song, but throughout the record. “Warrior” is a soft track where O really showcases how fine her voice is. “Turn Into” finishes off the record with another mid-tempo track full of O’s passion and Zinner and Chase’s fine musicianship. My only complaint about this album is that, while O’s voice is a great as ever and fits the mood of each song well, I miss the theatrics of her voice that was shown on FTT; the command that her voice took on that album is missing somewhat on SYB. While that let me down a bit, it is not enough to make me dislike this record, as musically it fits the person I am today.
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs have not given into the mainstream pressure of being on a major with Show Your Bones; instead this is an album full of maturity and heartbreak, hope and depression. While the chaos of FTT is missed, the musicianship of each and every song makes this one of the better albums to release in 2006. If you hated the Yeah Yeah Yeahs before, give Show Your Bones a chance, because this time around it is easier to get into their sound. For those who were fans of Fever To Tell, you may be disappointed upon first listen, but it will eventually grow on you and become a favorite, as it is hard to overlook how talented this band is. Even with the mainstream embracing the Yeah Yeah Yeahs more and more each day, you can count on Karen O, Brian Chase, and Nick Zinner never compromising their band’s sound to sell a few extra records.