The first song on Show Your Bones is almost good enough to make you forget about the media frenzy that surrounded the Yeah Yeah Yeahs when they released their debut full-length. That, of course, was more about Karen O’s wardrobe than about the music itself, which made perfect sense, because let’s face it: their songs weren’t actually as good as anyone liked to pretend they were. Yet just 20 seconds into their sophomore outing, the band seems deserving of all that praise. ‘Gold Lion’ starts off predictably enough, with a few measures of a simple, pounding drumbeat. Then, accompanied by an uncharacteristically peppy acoustic guitar, Karen O’s confident, hopeful vocals kick in. And before you know it, you’re in the midst of one of those weird, perfect pop moments no one can ever adequately describe.
Overall, Show Your Bones is more straightforward than Fever To Tell, less abrasive and annoyingly pleased with itself. The disc doesn’t often stray too far from the offbeat, poppy tone of ‘Gold Lion’, but its weakest moments come when it does. With its plodding drums and stupidly chunky guitars, ‘Fancy’ sounds dated and never does anything interesting. Then there are slow tracks like ‘The Sweets’ and ‘Warrior’, which do little more than weigh down the second half of an otherwise excellent record.
The best moments come during the more upbeat songs. ‘Way Out’ is similar to ‘Gold Lion’ in that it employs an acoustic guitar as its centerpiece, until Nick Zinner’s inspired, squealing solo takes over. ‘Honeybear’ is frantic and driving and boasts a well-placed and well-played synth part. For those of you who want the band to provide the soundtrack to your Saturday night on the dance floor, look no further than ‘Phenomenon’, which should be the go-to track for hipster DJs everywhere in the coming months.
The most important difference between the two records is Karen O’s newfound understanding that occasionally she should just shut the fuck up and let songs unfold naturally, without the “help” of that obnoxious shrieking she was so fond of on Fever. This is why it’s interesting that in the outstanding, Pretenders-esque ‘Cheated Hearts’, she repeats the line, “Sometimes I think I’m bigger than the sound.” For the first time, she seems to realize that she’s not, and she’s better off because of it.