March 24, 2006
Yeah Yeah Yeahs: Show Your Bones
Surviving the NYC clearout, they’re back, better than ever
8 / 10
First things first, we need to deal with the elephant in the room, to dispel the thick fug of rumour that hangs heavy over this release. ‘Show Your Bones’ is not, repeat not, a concept album about Karen O’s pussy. Perhaps we should clarify. Despite earlier reports by producer Squeak E Clean (aka Sam Spiegal, brother of Karen O’s ex-flame, Spike Jonze), the LP is not titled ‘Coco Beware’, and is hence not a concept album detailing the rise of the titular cat in Karen O’s affections. No friends, what we have is something far grander than that. What we have here is 2006’s Yeah Yeah Yeahs presenting themselves as a band that have cut themselves free from the fetters of a movement they helped birth and wrapped up warm in the robe of reinvention.
And what a reinvention. Unlike ‘Fever To Tell’, itself painted with the shocking pinks and threatening purples of post-coital contusions, ‘Show Your Bones’ is resolutely autumnal. It’s gutsy, bruised, womb-warm, simultaneously tender and defiant, and just about as sprawling as you can get in under 40 minutes. Brilliant, in short.
Though they’ve shed the cheap – but undeniably fun – Day-Glo immediacy of ‘Fever…’, it’s been replaced by a range of expressions that most artists will only stumble upon by their fifth release. That’s not to say the Yeahs have lost any of their distinctive vitality, this time around it just happens to find itself dancing bare-chested round a bonfire in the middle of the desert, rather than having spontaneous, unprotected sex in the cloakroom. Hence those pining for reimaginings of ‘Date With The Night’ and ‘Y Control’ will be left to their pining; even their closest uptempo equivalents, found in ‘Honey Bear’’s brusque Tex-Mex stomp and the Beck-like charm of first single ‘Gold Lion’, are drastically distinct from anything found on the Yeahs’ debut. They have, to quote Ms Orzolek, gone “rustic”. Though, granted, this is probably how most New Yorkers describe going without hot water for a few hours.
Much like their video for ‘Gold Lion’, ‘Show Your Bones’ thrusts you into a place of swirling dust, flaming drumsticks, and the faint silhouette of Karen O tearing pieces of her clothing off. So when ‘Sweets’ slouches by like PJ Harvey singing Calexico in the shower, you just know that somewhere out there, Josh Homme is chewing his bottom lip, pencilling KO into his Desert Sessions dream team. Case in point: track ‘Fancy’, in which Karen wails like she’s trapped down a well while Nick Zinner piles slab after frenzied slab of distortion on top of her, could very well have crawled its way out from the Rancho de la Luna.
But the album’s most bizarre “What the fuck was that I just heard?” moment comes in the guise of the show-stealing ‘Phenomena’. We swear that Karen’s partially lifted the chorus from LL Cool J’s 1997 Top 10 hit ‘Phenomenon’, and simply fiddled with the pluralisation. Even better, it sounds like she’s grinding her crotch against our ears, and is probably where fans of Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ debut will find their gateway into ‘Show Your Bones’.
But the clincher is closer ‘Turn Into’, which starts as a rootsy, tumbling early ’90s Belly-type affair before Zinner’s guitar transforms into a 20-foot-high Theremin and it’s BAM! – you’ve forgotten where you are, what your name is and have never even heard of a band called Arctic Monkeys. Needless to say, it’s a blissful few seconds.
Unfortunately, just as your spine is working through its 12th paroxysm of shuddering ecstasy, bonus track ‘Déjà Vu’ kicks in, doing its damnedest to meddle with this hard-won afterglow. However, if you have a working knowledge of laser-optics, this is easy enough to correct. Y’know, one day we’d like to see a bonus track properly inserted into the flow of an album, rather than tacked on like a half-hearted addendum. Why has nobody realised this yet? Madness.
But woe of woes, friends! Nick Zinner said in a recent interview that he doesn’t imagine Yeah Yeah Yeahs will be together in, uh, five years. Sure that seems like, five years away, but it means they’ve only got 1.6 albums left in them. Which means if you haven’t yet given Yeah Yeah Yeahs your cash, it’s time you started, bucko. Right. Now.
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