Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ long-awaited second album is a tale of two bands. On the first half they trade in their noisy and manic art punk of old for a bigger and cleaner rock sound. Karen O still wails like a cat, but the breathy panting and screeching has been largely replaced with a more controlled and commanding purr. And the tense and jagged riffs have been smoothed out just enough to allow room for arena-sized elements like piano flourishes, hard strumming acoustic guitars, deep thudding percussion and even atmospheric keyboards. Their lack of a bass player keeps them from ever sounding too mainstream, though. By track six, they strip things down, mellow out a bit, and pick up where the surprising tracks “Maps” and “Modern Romance” from their debut Fever To Tell left off (my #20 album of 2003). With indie-rock power ballads and mid-tempo head bobbers, they further explore their more sensitive and melodic side. The end result often resembles ‘90s college radio darlings Bettie Serveert, particularly when comparing Karen O’s pained, intimate, feline yelps to Carol van Dijk’s (Bettie Serveert vocalist). Throwing two distinct album halves together on the same release is an odd decision, but it works because there’s a clear dividing line between them. Together they make for a collection of intangible hooks that don’t often stick with you when the music stops, but feel right when you’re hearing them. It’s the subtle and unpredictable nature of Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ sound that keeps you coming back for new discoveries with each listen.
Heavy Rotation tracks: “Gold Lion“; “Dudley“; “The Sweets“
Medium Roation tracks: The rest
Grade: A (Top 20 Albums of 2006 Candidate)
(As posted 4/10/06 on davepowersmusic.com)
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