Riddle me this: what to you get when you cross a "goth, nerd, and a slut", throw them into a minimalist rock band, put them into the weirdest genre of rock music, and to ice it, throw in lyrics that don't make sense at all? You'll get either a god-awful piece of trash or The Yeah Yeah Yeah's. Or both. Taking an acoustic minimalistic approach to rock music, much of the Yeah Yeah Yeah's material is softer, with the occasional creepy burst. Led by one of the few frontwomen in rock people actually know about, Karen O, the Yeah Yeah Yeah's burst onto the scene with "Maps" off of their biggest album, Fever To Tell
. This concoction of a trio blends the sounds of 50's rock and acoustic folk and brings both into the new millenium, whether it be to your chagrin or to your salivation. The follow up to Fever To Tell
, Show Your Bones
, was an album that from the announcement of it's release was hyped. Trash magazines lined up to salivate over it's awesomeness and how Karen O would save rock, end world hunger, overthrow the opressive rule of Nigeria, and save the world from the alien invasion. Wait, no, that was Bono, not Karen O. Anyway, the magazines did line up, the critics came to praise, and one would think that this hot indie band could do no wrong. Until they released the album. Show Your Bones
is pretty much taking typical Yeah Yeah Yeah's and mashing it together in a chaotic eleven tracks. When this happens, one will get their good tracks, but flow be damned, the album will not be remembered. Show Your Bones
falls victim to this trap.
Now in indie rock, you'll be hard pressed to decide which band is the weirdest in terms of style. But The Yeah Yeah Yeahs always make the top 10. Blending the dirt of the White Stripes with the blues-y singing of Janis Joplin, not to mention the fact they look like the climbed out of the most barren edifices of Earth, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs tend to appeal to the off balance hipster crowd of urbania. The same crowd who goes for every flash in the band indie act. It takes a damn good deal of spunk to stay in with these people, and if the music's not there, you better be a trend setter. How do you think The Strokes got away with "First Impressions of Earth"? Blending three mismatched outcasts, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs get their spark from enigmatically hot front woman Karen O. With that god-forsaken haircut and Indiana dirt road voice, she's become the secret crush of every scarf wearing metrosexual in Manhattan it would seem. Her lyrics often don't make any sense when tied together, but sound great separately. On Show Your Bones
, Miss O stays true to form, using lines like "I'll fall right in to keep you out" and "Turn yourself around, you weren't invited". Perhaps that last line truly sums up the lyrical direction of Karen O: They don't make sense. *** Off. But, while the lyrics don't tell the best of stories or capture any specific feel, they stay on a theme, leaving the listener open to use them however they want to, to quote Anna Nalick. Because of the mystery Karen O brings to the table, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs always seem fresh, something the critics love. But critics, ever the Cancer zodiac sign, find new loves faster than Paris Hilton. Poor dogs.
It seems one can be the worst band riding a trend, nowadays, and you'll still get a rave review from the media. This is the Yeah Yeah Yeah's excuse for Karen O's voice. Droning, off-key, and often times annoying, Karen O's skills as a vocalist leave much to be desired. Cringe worthy moments pop up throughout Show Your Bones
, such as the repetitive and directionless Way Out
, where Miss O attempts to be insulting someone very mean. The result? "Lies and love. Lies, love. Bed wetting son of the great heat." Ba-Zing. The WWE could use her to script The Rock's new disses. But much more annoying than the punchless lyric is the way Karen O presents it, practically hiccupping the line. Many vocalists can get away with singing without training (Look at Jimi Hendrix), but Karen O is not one of them. Her unique wild-style is excusable on some tracks, such as barn-burner Gold Lion
, where she follows a threatening verse of "Tell me what you saw, I'll tell you what to..." with a "London Calling"-esque bird call. Most of the time, though, her bird calling would be more in place in the woods then in your CD player. On Mysteries
, Karen O and the boys take a jangly guitar and a crash-heavy percussion groove, and just let Karen O go. Towards the end, the gang breaks into a frighteningly "In Utero"-ish noise chaos, and Karen gets to scream her bloody lungs out. While on the noise tracks of Nirvana's final studio effort, Kurt got to say classics like "On the bright side, there's always suicide", Karen O gets to shriek "Dress, Stress, Stress". Dylan need not feel threatened. The ironic part is that Mysteries
is one of the highlights of the album.
While it may be true that Karen O's vocals and lyrics are not the best thing this side of The Arctic Monkeys, Show Your Bones
salvages enough good to make it passable as a hipster album. Sometimes songs actually go somewhere, a rare feat for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. On mid-album confusion-ballad Dudley
, The New York trio takes one of the most classic melodies and puts it over a sonic, nearly Coldplayish instrumentation. Guitarist (and the goth mentioned in the introductory question of this review) Nick Zinner chills out for once, and puts a classic indie guitar line under Karen O's lamenting "Lost all reason after playing your game, better quit staring cause your looking the same." See, she can do it if she tries. Of course, after this sweet heartbreaker, you jump into the aforementioned neo-punk Mysteries
, where Nick Zinner tears the upper frets of his guitar apart. This two song progression sums up Show Your Bones
perfectly. It can be good, but there is no flow. And many times, it gets boring. Tracks that are one speed, one melody, and one volume are not interesting after two minutes. Why do you think so many punk songs are less than three minutes? With The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, songs meant to be one or two minutes drag on at 4 plus minutes, such as early album strutters Fancy
. Both take great ideas and roll with it for as long as it can go, plus a minute and a half more. It's a curse, the length of these songs. Phenomena
's guitar riff can get anyone ready to fight in a jiffy (which is an actual measurement of time), but by the end, you feel like you are the one beaten up. It doesn't help that the song incorporates sirens, crash cymbals, and Karen O going out of her range on harmonics that don't exist.
While some songs are forgettable because they are just too long, some songs are bad even when they are short. On Honeybear
, Karen O tries to sound like a badass grrrl, and instead comes off sounding like a precocious brat, incessantly whining "Ive got a call from the bear, gonna take all his honey honey. Done, all alone." It's annoying, especially when the song had the potential to be catchy under percussionist (And nerd of introductory riddle) Brian Chase's bass pounding. Chase often has more than a clue of what he's doing behind the kit, usually providing a solid backbeat for acoustic and heavy songs alike. He provides the rhythm of the funeral march in The Sweets
, while on the very next track, Warrior
, he sporadically jumps around while keeping a solid beat. This brings up a point that sums up Show Your Bones
. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs are not untalented musicians. They're just not great songwriters. The mismatched trio of goth, nerd, and slut sounds like an interesting mashup, but it turns out the sound is too chaotic to fully enjoy. Too many or too little things are going on at once for the listener to enjoy the Yeah Yeah Yeahs efforts. If you're looking for some indie rock, though nothing spectacular, then give Show Your Bones
a spin by all means. Opinions on this album have ranged from awful to fantastic. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs are an acquired taste. But be forwarned: Karen O's voice is not for everyone, and you're getting into something not very mainstream.
Turns out the oppressive rule of Nigeria lives on, for Karen O has failed you.
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