“Sometimes I think that I’m bigger than the sound,” bemoans Yeah Yeah Yeahs frontwoman Karen O throughout “Cheated Hearts.” The cut is just one of 11 decidedly personal dialogues that O relays to her audience on the band’s long-awaited sophomore release, Show Your Bones. Gathering from the rest of the album, “sometimes” is both the understatement and the undoing of rock’s leading lady, as a good deal of the album’s subject matter revolves around O grappling with rock stardom and fan adoration. Where 2003’s Fever To Tell masked all those nasty emotional issues under a veil of punk bravado and dance-worthy garage rock, Show Your Bones swings the doors to O’s neuroses and self-conscious tendencies wide open. Even the album’s jacket – an overwhelming, multi-page collage of fan mail and artwork – calls upon the sense of reluctance that marks the majority of the record’s lyrics.
Herein, raw vocals and flawless guitar work -courtesy of boy-wonder Nick Zinner – weave together over understated piano and resounding drum beats to create a sound that is reminiscent without sounding derivative of the threesome’s breakthrough debut. With a voice that seamlessly fluctuates between nasal wailing and eerie howls, O manages to simultaneously evoke juvenile insecurity and mature personal reflection through lyrics like, “The river’s gonna wash all / Yeah the river it spoke to me / Told I’m small in a swollen gown / If I make it all I’ll make you want me” (“Warrior”).
Like its predecessor, Show Your Bones is driven by the eccentric delivery and near-spastic vocal styling of Ms. O. “Fancy” and “Honeybear” work as the angry, spite-filled counterparts to the sing-along solemnity of songs like “Dudley” and the album-closing “Turn Into,” making for a record that is as diverse as it is enjoyable. Recognized early on for their powerful live performances – as well as O’s ability to pull off the sparkly lycra one-piece – the Yeah Yeah Yeahs have allowed themselves to grow up while still staying true to their roots. Though Zinner’s arrangements are as stunningly polished as ever, the overall appeal of the album still lies in the rawness and simplicity expected of a three-piece. Drummer Brian Chase draws heavily from the haphazard garage style that made Fever To Tell so nostalgically appealing, calling upon distant memories of Joan Jett and Bikini Kill. But setup and influences aside, the band’s delivery remains as experimental and forward thinking as ever. Lucky for us, we don’t have to think any further forward than April 30, when Karen and the boys are scheduled to take on Coachella’s main stage, co-headlining night two of the concert festivities.
[Aly Comingore plans on sporting a fuchsia leotard all the way to Indio.]