Trying to put in to words what's wrong with Show Your Bones is difficult. I've been listening to it a lot over the past couple of weeks and I'm having troubles coming up with easy answers... Well, what's changed in the three years that separates the releases of Fever to Tell and Show Your Bones? One of the most obvious adjustments is made by Karen O, who has shed some of that aggressive, punk-angst she carried over the course of her earlier work in favor of a more mature approach to the vocals. It undoubtedly has a lot to do with the subject matter; this is Karen O's break-up album:
"I'm way out.When you mean it on the inside you still can't get to me.""Turn yourself around.You weren't invited.""Cheated by the opposite of love.Held on high from up above.""I've lost all reason from playing your games.Better quit staring cause you're looking the same."
Lyrics were never the reason we were all listening to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and that hasn't changed. They just aren't very good, and seriously undermines Karen's intentions of creating a more personal record. To make matters worse, the more serious approach to the vocals takes the fun out of what made Karen O so intriguing to listen to in the first place, which was that punk-rock personality she exuded in her songs and the aggressive delivery of those lyrics.
The sound has also changed. David Sitek of TV on the Radio fame, who did an excellent job in co-producing Fever to Tell with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, was also asked to contribute to the production of Show Your Bones. The curveball is the addition of Squeak E. Clean, a DJ and producer who's scored commercials and worked with the likes of Maroon 5 and Kanye West. The newly-formed trio add more gloss and sophistication to the sound; removing distortion from Karen's voice, adding acoustic guitars to at least half the tracks, increasing the presence of bass guitar, and removing a lot of that dirty-edgy-rock sound that was prevalent earlier. Sophistication and garage rock don't often go hand in hand, and it results in a band that sounds like a watered-down, imitation of its former self.
I'm all for a band evolving; it would be a bore for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs to put out an album that sounds exactly like the first, but the steps they've taken in redeveloping their sound leave me uninterested. I'll keep a couple of the more engrossing tracks like "Cheated Hearts" and "I'm Way Out" but I'm sure I'll rarely listen to them. I'll be deleting the rest of the album, I only have 32gb to work with.