Reviewed: The Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Ghostface Killah


Salon Staff
March 30, 2006 1:30AM (UTC)

Yeah Yeah Yeahs, "Show Your Bones"

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs have dealt with the "difficult second album" syndrome in a straightforward manner -- by simply waiting three years, lead singer Karen O and her band have reemerged with a dramatically beefed-up sound. It's a move that has polarized critics: Those who loved 2003's "Fever to Tell" are generally underwhelmed by "Show Your Bones," while those who were skeptical at first are now embracing the band.

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Pitchfork (rating 6.8 out of 10) is disappointed to find that on the new record, "the Yeah Yeah Yeahs occupy only one corner of the territory they claimed" on their first album, and notes that the "refinements, which prove merely cosmetic, sap their sound of its brutal spontaneity and mute the band members' idiosyncrasies." The San Francisco Chronicle (very good), by contrast, remembers "Fever to Tell" as a "disappointment" and observes that, for one, "the sonic cues on the threesome's second album are richer," and that they draw "on the soft-rock technique that works so well for the likes of Radiohead and the Pixies, only with added tribal drums and O's seductive banshee purrs."

Pop Matters (nine out of 10) is the most taken with the new Yeah Yeah Yeahs, exclaiming, "This doesnt sound like any sophomore album Ive ever heard, this is more like a fifth or sixth album from a band thats been together twice as long," and calling the record "only about two hairs-breadth away from being a masterpiece." Only the Independent (two out of five) proves impossible to please, conceding that "compared to [their first record's] wretched faux-punk stylings, a track like album opener 'Gold Lion' seems a masterpiece of thoughtful construction," but still complaining that "there's an awful lot of plodding, four-square guitar rock among these dozen tracks"

Ghostface Killah, "Fishscale"

By the usual standards of rap, Ghostface Killah -- who's still producing groundbreaking, critically acclaimed albums after some 13 years in the business -- counts as an elder statesmen of hip-hop. While a couple of R&B tracks suggest the former Wu-Tang Clan member is chasing some long overdue mainstream success on his 5th album, "Fishscale," Billboard says, "Originality has not been sacrificed to commercial concern" on what it calls " the definitive Ghost." The New York Times is similarly enthused, calling Ghostface "perhaps the most lovable rapper in the world," and commenting that "he raps like a man on fire, evoking not only the excitement of an adrenaline rush but also the heightened perception that accompanies it."

For Newsday (grade A-), meanwhile, it is case of rap preconceptions being shattered: "'Street' doesn't have to be stupid. 'Gangsta' doesn't have to be immoral. 'Smart' doesn't have to be boring. And anyone who still believes Eminem and 50 Cent are the best rappers around hasn't heard Ghostface." Rolling Stone continues the love, and helps us out with a few reference points: "'Fishscale' is apparently slang for uncut coke -- and the perfect title for an ambitious disc with almost no filler."

--Matt Glazebrook

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