The Yeah Yeah Yeah's are really coming into their own on `Show Your Bones', their sophomore release for Interscope records. Moving solidly beyond their early sound, which was immediately something all their own, the band are solidifying their reputation as rock critic darlings, more than that they are proving that they lead the pack. The YYY's have always had sonic experimentation down to a `T', but lacked something in songwriting (with a few notable exceptions such as "Modern Romance/Porcelain"). Here it seems they've toned downed the former somewhat, in order to focus more on the latter. This must be what has caused a legion of indie snobs to baulk at how the YYY's have "sold out" or "lost their edge." Well, you hear this argument for basically every band in history that ever broke through from cult status. It is an old - and almost always groundless - argument and I really just find it boring. In the words of The Libertines "I get along/just singing my song/people tell me I'm wrong.../f*#k `em."
By now everyone knows "Gold Lion" (if you don't then I'm not sure how you happened upon this review). The song structure is perhaps the simplest in the YYY's catalogue, with the four chord progression continuing straight through the whole song without changing. Karen`s exquisite "ooh ooh`s" undoubtedly cement it`s lead single status. The solo is simplistic by Nick Zinner's standards, but that doesn't stop it from blasting off at you like a rocket ship. This is another psychedelic "pop" masterpiece from those who brought you "Maps."
"Fancy" starts out with pounding drums that immediately draw you in. Twenty seconds in the drums are joined by slow, heavy, pounding guitar chords that sound like if Sonic Youth covered a Link Wray instrumental. Then Karen joins in "I find it in the atlas/we're flipping over old news/check what's in the trash bag/we're just another part of you/we're just another part of you/I beg your pardon/beg your pardon/beg your pardon..." before letting loose a scream to rival "Art Star." This goes on for two verses before an incredibly liquid-sounding wah wah effect introduces the quieter bridge which serves as only a short hiatus before launching back to the slashing guitar and pounding drums of the intro, which slam you right home. This song is hardly being mentioned in reviews, which is criminal as it's one of the best on the album.
Next up we find Karen singing with her by now trademark charismatic self-assured attitude. Is she talking about herself in the chorus, or sarcastically putting someone down? Either way it's immediately a favorite and you can't help singing along with "you're something like a phenomena baby/something like a phenomena." The guitar here is almost brain-dead simple, in the tradition of early Neil Young - especially in the middle part of the song where Nick just keeps rhythmically hitting the same note about 50 times in a row.
"Honeybear" opens spectacularly with the bass drum pounding out a beat and Karen singing "turn yourself around/you weren't invited/good good things happen in bad towns" backed by a guitar that just doubles the melody she's singing, until the whole band crashes in and rocks along to the bridge. Brian Chase shows great chops in the middle breakdown, sounding like an heir to Charlie Watts' throne.
"Warrior" begins as a gentle, catchy acoustic ballad, but slowly speeds up and builds to anthemic status by the end. It also boasts perhaps the greatest lyrics Karen O has yet to pen.
"Now the strangers have caught on
And they're riding in the backseat.
The river's gonna watch all,
Yeah the river it spoke to me.
It told me I'm small,
And I swallowed it down.
If I make it at all,
I'll make you want me."
The most popular translation of the "strangers riding in the backseat" is that of people who finally caught on when the band hit it big with singles like "Maps" and now "Gold Lion," versus those of us who have championed the band from the first EP. However, I think the whole song is about the record industry. The strangers are really record execs who must have screwed the YYY's over in the past, when now they've turned out to be a success. Of course, not such a success as to rival pop giants that make record companies the real money, therefore the record industry here is the "river" telling Karen not to get a big head yet, she still is a relatively small fish.
"I know what I know" Karen tells us in the closer, "Turn Into." What is it that she knows? "I'd like to tell you all about it..." but she's interrupted by a simple Nick Zinner solo, augmented by an otherworldly fuzz effect that sounds like the noise you'd expect a UFO to make. His electric rhythm guitar work here is amazing as well, it took The Edge at least 10 years to get half this good. This is another slower, ballad-esque tune and closes the album perfectly.
When this first came out, the songs were so addicting it didn't leave my car's CD player for weeks. Now, months later, I am still listening to it in steady rotation. I may not have mentioned every track, but they are all good. The songwriting is much better and the musicianship, which has also been light years ahead of any of their contemporaries, is getting even more adventurous while at the same time getting simpler, if that were possible. A more pretentious music snob than myself would just complain that they've sold out, and proceed to list all the indie/underground bands that you've never heard of which the YYY's have supposedly "ripped off" (and I see quite a few indie snobs have done just that) but I prefer to let myself just enjoy damn good music when I hear it. Anyway, just listening to this album is enough every time to make me want to go postal worker on my boss for not letting me have the night off when these guys came to Cleveland last. There's no way I'm missing them next time around.