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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

The rock band, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, has a new album out today, but is it any good? Music critic, Christian Hoard, says yeah.

CHRISTIAN HOARD reporting:

Back when The Yeah Yeah Yeahs were playing tiny club gigs five years ago, they were a curious sight, compared with most of their ice-cool New York contemporaries: just three members on stage with no bass player and a singer named Karen O. bouncing around and flinging beer on her audience.

Their first full-length album, 2003's Fever to Tell, was a lovably messy record that combined socked-out riffs, cascading sheets of noise and Karen O.'s caterwauling and cracked moans, but the album sold more than half a million copies. Thanks to the band's distinct sound and look, the marketing strength of their major label, Interscope Records, and this song, Maps, a gorgeous near-ballad with a video that became a hit on MTV Two.

(Soundbite of song, “Maps”)

THE YEAH YEAH YEAHS: (Singing) Wait, they don't love you like I love you. Wait, they don't love you like I love you. Maps, wait. They don't love you like I love you.

HOARD: The Yeah Yeah Yeah's new record, Show Your Bones, is a big step forward for the band, with help from Sam Spiegel, a hit pop school producer who's also the brother of filmmaker Spike Jonez. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs outfitted Show Your Bones with a big, powerful sound and fully formed, highly focused songs.

While Karen O. works up catchy choruses and spiky hooks, powerhouse drummer Brian Chase and resourceful guitarist, Nick Zinner, lay down everything from rockistance(ph) rock to shambling acoustic grooves. The result is a dog-eared pop record that could make the band something like famous.

(Soundbite of song, “Gold Lion”)

THE YEAH YEAH YEAHS: (Singing) Now, tell me what you saw, tell me what you saw. There was a crowd of seeds. Inside, outside--I must have done a dozen each. It was the height I threw, the weight, the shell was crushing you. I've been around a few. Tell me what you saw, I'll tell you what to, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh.

HOARD: That song, Gold Lion, is the first single from the album, and like most songs on Show Your Bones, it's a showcase for Karen O.'s engaging persona. Between her effervescent stage presence and a fashion sense that combines bright ‘80s colors and scissored punk-tatters, Ms. O. is becoming a pop icon for the My Space generation.

On Show Your Bones, she reigns in her past excesses, but remains hard to pin down. Sometimes, she's a pained lover. Sometimes, she's cryptic chanteuse, and sometimes, she's a sort of good-natured cheerleader for her young fans, as on this song, Cheated Hearts.

(Soundbite of song, “Cheated Hearts”)

THE YEAH YEAH YEAHs: (Singing) Well, I'll take it, take it, take it, take it, take it, taking it off, and she's take it, take it, take it, taking it off, and he's take it, take it, take it, take it, taking it off, and we're take it, take it, take it, take it, taking it off. Well, sometimes, I think I'm bigger than the sound. I think I'm bigger than the sound. Oh, I think I'm bigger than the sound. Oh, I think I'm bigger than the sound.

HOARD: The most impressive thing about these songs is the way The Yeah Yeah Yeahs have learned to focus their energy without compromising their free-wheeling spirit.

(Soundbite of song, “Way Out”)

HOARD: Even on relatively straightforward cuts like this one, Way Out, the band plows ahead with supreme confidence, and they only sound like themselves.

(Soundbite of song, “Way Out”)

THE YEAH YEAH YEAHS: (Singing) Way out. Way out. Way out. Way out. When you're in the inside, you still get by me.

BRAND: The Yeah Yeah Yeahs' new album, Show Your Bones, hits stores today. Christian Hoard is a writer for Rolling Stone magazine, and you can hear full-length versions of the songs featured in this review at our web site, NPR.org.

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