Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs: Show Your Bones

Yeah Yeah Yeahs went from underground darlings to the fluke hitmakers of "Maps" so quickly that it's tempting to think of the trio as the luckiest band alive. There were—and continue to be—plenty of artists trying to carve out a place in the post-punk-inspired New York music scene, so what sets Yeah Yeah Yeahs apart? The difficult-to-define charisma of frontwoman Karen O has a lot to do with it. Simultaneously enigmatic and a club-going everywoman, she's capable of sounding abrasive and achingly vulnerable—often over the course of the same song. But it isn't like the rest of the band doesn't deserve plenty of credit for creating the sometimes uncompromisingly raw, sometimes-romantic music against which her vocal dramas play out. In a sea of sound-alike bands, nobody quite sounds like Yeah Yeah Yeahs.


Sometimes even Yeah Yeah Yeahs don't sound like Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Their 2003 full-length debut Fever To Tell split neatly down the middle, the aggressive tracks of the first half giving way to quieter, catchier moments in the second. Show Your Bones jumbles up the approach, letting the band shift gears from track to track. O's primal howl makes fewer appearances, but there's no attempt to soften up for the sake of creating another "Maps." "Phenomena" experiments with angular funk, while "Gold Lion" balances O's yelps against an insistent drum and an acoustic guitar that gives way to an electric crunch.

But as before, the band's willingness to ground itself in human emotion sets it apart. There's heartache beneath the noise of "Cheated Hearts," and regret inside the driving beat of "Mysteries." O's willingness to be uncool is part of her cool. When she sings "Hope I do turn into you" on "Turn Into," it sounds startlingly sincere, an almost-accidental admission that even rock stars who have stardom thrust upon them have desire just like the rest of us.