Sunday, February 26, 2006

YEAH, YEAH, EH



"I liked their first album better.

By now, the dismissal by sophomore slump is already a preemptive cliché. The temperamental New York hipsteratti falls in-and-out of love faster than the band can record the follow-up's demos. Whenever a local group finds worldwide acceptance, the honeymoon ends and home team pride fades away like backlash on fast-forward. It happened with the Strokes' Room On Fire, it happened with Interpol's Antics and it will assuredly happen with countless other examples from hereon in. Instead of supporting the city pride through a misstep, we shoot them down like Dick Cheney on lawyers.

It's just a few weeks away from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' own sophomore release Show Your Bones and there's much speculation as to how the album will be received. The first single “Gold Lion” features the polished Gwen Stefanish vocals of lead singer Karen O singing over Love And Rockets' "No New Tale To Tell." The song, while still frisky, is definitely more tempered than any of the tracks off of the debut Fever To Tell and also less memorable. And the milquetoast pre-buzz hasn't helped the case. While in the past New Yorker's Sasha Frere Jones has generally written about artists he's felt very strongly about (i.e. Emiliana Torrini, The Mountain Goats, the then-unknown Keren Ann), his write-up of Show Your Bones read like impassive review. And from what I've heard of the record thus far, Bones plays like the Yeahs’ mid-life crisis album, the dentures to Fever’s sharp incisors.

On Saturday Night, Karen O walked out on the stage of New York's Bowery Ballroom to an eager crowd. This was reportedly a fan-only gathering--the label had a small-to-no guest list--and the anticipation amongst the audience confirmed this. Sporting a cabaret hair-bob, the maniacal frontwoman glowed in a golden mini-dress and bronze shawl wrapped around her neck. Soon thereafter, the thundering drums of Brian Chase pounded forth from the back of the stage. While Karen gets most of the attention, it should be noted that Chase is a secret weapon drummer playing throughout the night like Bonham, relentlessly hitting the cymbals like beating a tree branch to the ground. Guitarist Nick Zinner and guest fourth member Imaad Wasif joined Chase on the song by filling in the holes of "Gold Lion." For the rest of the night, the triple Yeahs focused on new material like "Phemonena," "Dudley," and "Honey Bear," slipping in an old favorite intermittenly throughout the set. “Maps” and “Y Control” will never lose their potency and “Tick,” the night’s closer sounded as urgently deranged as it did when I saw the then-unknown band in Austin three years ago.

The trio, while epitomizing cool, does so in a very different way that the aforementioned bands. Chase, Zinner, and O have never embraced the cooler-than-cool rock star aura. They're not particularly or conventionally attractive. Chase is bookish looking, Zinner is a small-bodied Anime character brought to life and Karen's giddy/misplaced affect shtick is not sexy by any means. If anything, it’s unsettling. There's something so defiantly arty about the YYY's refusal to compromise their oddness for the mainstream. It’s also telling that Fever To Tell sat on the shelf for nearly a year before the record took off thanks to the fluke hit “Maps,” because it took that long for the press to digest the meaty thirty-minute-plus debut. And while the band's authenticity throughout their five-year career is admirable, it doesn't mean I will rave about their catalogue regardless. Bones sounds like a misstep in comparison to the high expectations left by their blistering Fever. I’ll be happy if after more time, I’m proven wrong but if I’m not, that too is okay. Despite a sophomore slump, I'll be more than glad to champion the Yeah Yeah Yeahs in the future. Unlike many other New Yorkers, I’m supportive like that.

2 Comments:

Blogger Lici said...

While I enjoyed listening to Gold Lion, it has a tendency to lose momentium the second the song ends. Disappointing follow-up, but still a good song, imo.

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