On Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ sophomore album, Show Your Bones, you’ll find a maturity they didn’t show last time around, a commitment to reeling in their furious extravagances for something precise without sounding polished. The simmering threat that they might explode at any moment is the sonic equivalent of watching a circus performer stick his head into a lion’s mouth: We pray for success and yet are thrilled by the idea of a pissed-off lion swallowing some dumb-ass’s head. Whatever happens, we never leave the edge of our seats or look away. It’s this tension that separates Show Your Bones from Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ stormy, over-caffeinated garage-pop debut, Fever to Tell.
The band shows genuine artistic growth as well, from conservatory geek Brian Chase liberating his inner Dave Grohl, to Lestat clone Nick Zinner ditching his flamboyant guitar for more elegance and less feedback, to sexed-up fashion icon and singer Karen O’s increasingly complex lyrical grace. Her candid lyrics are so fragmentary, in fact, that you’d need Freud, some mushrooms, and maybe even the Riddler to decipher them. And still, they work.
Show Your Bones’ first single simmers and pops along with O’s mellifluous voice and Zinner’s transition from acoustic to electric guitar with the chorus, but it’s the addictive rap-rock meets punk gusto of “Phenomena” that will get your foot stomping. “Cheated Hearts” is the heart of the album, much like “Maps” was for Fever to Tell, “Fancy” sounds a lot like Queens of the Stone Age with a female out front, and “Warrior” is the best song on the album: “Men like me because I’m a warrior/ Stand on my feet, dance the warrior.” O and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs have always existed as a strange hybrid of hype and fashion, but here they throw real rock into the mix.