Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Cheated Hearts

Song: Cheated Hearts
Artist: Yeah Yeah Yeah's
Album: Show Your Bones

Sometimes it is impossible to live up to your own hype, and sometimes there are bands and artists that step up to the proverbial plate and do something honestly great. The Yeah Yeah Yeah's, Brooklyn art rockers, had so much hype surrounding them as they came up it was a wonder how they could live up to it all. Their first live gig was opening for The White Stripes (ah... what?) and pretty soon they had "Next Big Thing" status even though they hadn't like, recorded anything.

Their self titled debut EP was released and came with so much riding on it you would expect the band to self implode before they even started. It got a so-so reception and it was pretty clear that the band did not live up to the hype of their live shows. As it was only an EP, they still had another chance to prove that the word of mouth wildfire that was spreading by anyone who had seen them live was concrete. "Fever to Tell" came out in 2003 and the band truly delivered. Manic, insane, catchy, it was a recorded version of what their already famed live shows were all about with lead singer Karen O coming across as Chrissy Hyde meets Sybil. It felt very new, very now. (At least then.)

I really really liked that record, but hands down the shining gem on the album was "Maps," an obtuse rock ballad that raged with just as much emotion as fury. The song and video became an MTV2 hit thanks to Karen O's intense performance. The line "They don't love you like I love you" was that type of simple yet profound line that anyone could take, apply it to their own lives, and make their own.

Over time, some of the more wild and outrageous cuts on "Fever" wore thin to me. I imagine they would still blister live, but songs like "Pin" and "Tick" were just too lyrically simple and didn't have the hooks that really garnered multiple listens. But because it had enough great songs that as an album, and representation of who the band were,"Fever to Tell" was a success. With the Yeah Yeah Yeah's, you could honestly believe the hype.

I highly anticipated their follow up, and my hope was that they would expand themselves and take the promise of "Maps" and make an emotional hurricane of a record, reigning in their more out-there tendencies and put together an entire record of solid pop-garage rock. Talk about high expectations, can anyone deliver in such a way?

I was so pleased then, when I first heard "Show Your Bones" and my excitement only grew because the band was able to give me exactly what I wanted. Emotional yet keeping with the half-insane rock aesthetic they created with "Fever to Tell," "Show Your Bones" has everything the band brought with "Maps" and moreso. First single "Gold Lion" is about as strange a song as they come (with a whacked out video to match)and while I still have no idea what on earth she is singing about, it takes only about four listens and you are singing along with the crazy "Oh-ohh! Oh-ohh's and "gold lion gunna tell me where the light is!" Haunting ballads, rock songs that seem to take influence from funk-rock and hip hop at the same time, the record has it all. And lyrically it is light years from their first album. Sometimes obtuse and sometimes downright scary in their pointed emotional intensity, "Bones" is many things, but never simple.

Unfortunately, the album has sold less than half of "Fever's" take and it while it opened big, hasn't really caught on. I have a feeling that it will once again just take one of these excellent songs to catch on the way "Maps" did and the Yeah Yeah Yeah's will be riding high again. (Although all the break-up rumors that were actually part of the press for the record have me fearing the worse.) I don't know if "Cheated Hearts" is the song that will save the record, but this second single is just a downright killer song. Again, I am not 100% sure what Karen means when she says "Sometimes I think that I'm bigger than the sound," but the build up is so intense and she rides Nick Zinner's guitar work so well I personally have no choice but to bob my head and think, "yeah, sometimes I think that I'm bigger than the sound too." (Part of the appeal of Karen's songs is that the listener not only feels like she is singing to you and/or about your life, but that you are singing along with her... metephorically of course.)

I really love this record and urge you to go out and get it. You will not be disappointed.


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