Adored by fans and underestimated by rock critics as a one-hit, beer-spewing wonder, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs are one of the few rock bands to completely re-invent themselves and actually pull it off.
Gone is the low-fi garage rock, the gloriously ramshackle art-rock and the punk noise of their self-titled EP.
Their new album, Show Your Bones, sounds to use a damning word among the Hot Topic contingent mature. If their first full-length CD, Fever to Tell, was a drunken night smashing beer bottles over each other's heads, Bones is an evening sipping red wine with friends then smashing the glasses over each other's heads.
Speaking from his home in Brooklyn, N.Y., Yeah Yeah Yeahs drummer Brian Chase says the new sound was born from a new approach to recording.
"We wanted to break away from our old habits and old songwriting process," he says. "Basically, the plan was ultimately to make a very spontaneous and fun record, to capture a specific moment and time, instead of touring with a song for a while before recording it."
Recorded with his bandmates singer Karen O and guitarist Nick Zinner over a roughly five-month period, Chase says Bones' theme is one of "newness."
Where Fever to Tell sounds impulsive, Bones actually is. According to Chase, the group let the songs write themselves, pushing deadline as far as they could to see where they'd end up.
"It wasn't until we recorded it that it came together. The spontaneity in this album comes from crystallizing a specific moment, and the possibility that these songs could've gone in any direction," he says.
And the band members themselves have changed. Zinner still provides his huge, choppy guitar riffs, but now adds acoustic jangles, atmospheric static and feedback, waxing and waning in the chaos. Chase's heavy beats distinctly complement his bandmates' audio wanderings.
Karen O has probably seen the most change. She's grown out of the infamous torn neon fishnet stockings, her acrobatic antics and microphone-swallowing shtick. She's sporting a less nasally yowl, and exploring a greater vocal span on tracks like the rockabilly "Mysteries." On "Cheated Hearts," which starts as a bittersweet ballad, she eventually rips into a brash chorus, singing, "I think I'm bigger than the sound."
"There's always been a lot of depth to Karen," says Chase. "When we were starting out, she definitely fit that description of a crazy performer. But I think with Fever, people overlooked what Karen was really offering, the depth of her performance. It's one of the ways we've been misrepresented in the press: It's more fun to focus on the party aspect and the exhibitionist part of the show."
So are Yeah Yeah Yeahs shows going to shed the dance-a-thon atmosphere, and become a more mellow, Fleetwood Mac-like experience? Chase scoffs at the idea.
"Yeah, everyone's going to be barefoot on the expensive Persian rug that has coke stains on it, right? No. It's hard to break old habits."
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs with Editors
Fillmore Auditorium, 1510 Clarkson St., Denver
Friday, April 21, 8 p.m.
Tickets: $20; visit fillmoreauditorium.com.