In his recent review of the Strokes’ First Impressions of Earth, Rolling Stone’s Rob Sheffield quipped that when the Strokes emerged five years ago from a cloud of designer denim, no one expected that the band would be around long enough to make a third album. Well, if Impressions was a surprise, prepare to have your socks knocked off by Show Your Bones, the second full-length by the Strokes’ NYC pals the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Even more than with the Strokes, early signs indicated that the YYYs — a thrashy, live-wire trio whose charismatic frontwoman, Karen O, established a reputation for endangering herself on stage — would succumb to the rock-and-roll excess they indulged in as a kind of performance-art parody. But they didn’t (or haven’t yet, as recent interviews with the band suggest), and the dark, sprawling Bones reveals that they have bigger plans for their music than volume and speed. At a time when most Big Apple bands are making follow-up albums that sound like their debuts, this one takes a left turn into textured art rock full of acoustic guitars and keyboards and layered vocals. “Gold Lion,” the funky lead single, could be a Beck B-side; “Way Out” sounds like something from the Pixies’ Surfer Rosa. Yet the music isn’t without the tense energy that defined the old stuff: in “Phenomena” Karen O quotes LL Cool J over a swaggering beat, and “Honeybear” breathes new life into the post-punk revival. Bones is an unexpected success from these hard-boiled survivors; they should stick around long enough to surprise us again.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs + Blood on the Wall | April 7 | Orpheum, 1 Hamilton Place, Boston | 617.931.2000