It's been four years since the explosion of sex and stamina and noise and growling guitars that was Fever to Tell burst out of the art lofts of Williamsburg. Four years of touring, of breakdowns, of darkness, of notoriety. Four years to hone an aesthetic that seemed positively feral in its immediacy, its passion. And sometimes, it sounds like it hasn't been long enough away for the YYYs; like they don't want to be back in the studio; that they were dragged back into it, unwilling. Karen O still slinks and prowls and yelps, feline-sharp across single "Gold Lion" and rocker "Phenomena." Brian Chase's drumming is still fluid and razor-neat; Nick Zinner brutally inventive, chasing New Wave demons across "Cheated Hearts" and "Sweets," but it feels wrong, somewhere. Toned down. Cleaned up. Polished too much. Don't get me wrong; every note is pristine and rings with clarion intent sometimes a raucous White Stripes-style stutter ("Honey Bear"), sometimes a wind-swept howl ("Warrior") but something is lacking; a sense of urgency, a sense of tension perhaps. Nonetheless, this is a fine record, certainly better than those dismal sophomores from The Strokes and their ilk. It's just that it feels the Yeah Yeah Yeahs haven't exerted themselves to their fullest.
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