MUSIC REVIEW: Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Show Your Bones Interscope
Music •••• Sound ••••
Like the noted downtown New York clothing shop, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs can probably best be described as a kind of modern-rock version of Trash and Vaudeville. Anyone who's ever seen this three-piece art-punk-glam-bam mash unit in action can attest to the unique showbiz, er, flair of singer Karen O. Her gutter-chic fashion and gutter-minded performance histrionics helped the band become everybody's dahlings when they made their major-label debut with 2003's lo-fi-and-loving-it Fever to Tell. Significantly, though, we've been waiting three years for a follow-up spew, thus begging the proverbial question: Were they simply retreating from the hype, or (more problematically) had they hit the "we've made it, now what do we do?" wall of voodoo?

Well, Show Your Bones is definitely a zebra of a different (white) stripe than its Grand Guignol-y predecessor. For one thing, there's far less slutty sex talk oozing out of the sides of Ms. O's mouth as she surveys her scorched battlefield of love. "My dear, you've been used / I'm break­in' the news," she sings in "Dudley" - a well-Cured ballad whose verse melody is lifted from the nursery rhyme "Mockingbird," thus injecting a childlike spin into the emotional wreckage. Conversely, the rockabillying "Mysteries" finds her coolly brushing off a former beau ("I messed up the missing of you") before indulging in hipster self-analysis: "I don't even know who I like less - you or me."

More important, though, is the sound, which shows just how much the group has evolved in the recording studio. Not that the Yeah Yeah Yeahs have (to use punk's dirtiest word) matured - far from it. Nick Zinner continues to revel in chorded riffs straight from the Johnny Ramone/Ricky Wilson/Tony Iommi Bermuda Triangle of speed/economy/sludge guitar-playing, while powerhouse drummer Brian Chase does everything but physically explode, à la Spi¨nal Tap, behind his kit. And Karen O, bless her cracked little head, is never more than a shout away from an Iggy Pop (by way of Siouxsie Sioux) youthful yowl. Still, there are well-crafted production values here, especially on layered tracks like "Gold Lion," "The Sweets," and "Turn Into" - which all start with gentle acoustic intros, only to lower the (sonic) boom and morph into hard-rock behemoths. As the old stage hoofers would say: Knock 'em dead.