Before the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Karen O strutted, spit and cooed her way to indie-rock icon status, the last dynamic female to front a rock band was arguably Courtney Love. The grunge widow propelled Hole to stardom in the 1990s with her inimitable martyr poses and baby-doll fashion on the landmark album Live Through This. But C. Love somewhat lost her cathartic bellow on Hole's overly glossy 1998 album Celebrity Skin -- a parallel that immediately springs to mind when listening to the YYYs' sophomore effort, Show Your Bones. Absent from Bones are the seedy keyboard screeches and unhinged feral screams of 2003's Fever to Tell, replaced by mellow fuzztones and sedate singing -- which means that the band has to rely on subtleties rather than chaos to hook listeners.
Unfortunately, this conceit often produces tedious music that's so muted it feels devoid of passion (i.e., the very spark that distinguished Tell from other hyped-artist albums). Now, this isn't to say that Bones isn't without merit: The sparse "Warrior" sounds like early PJ Harvey dueling at dawn with modern-era Sonic Youth; "Dudley" (and its daybreak-dawning keyboards) resembles a lost Siouxsie and the Banshees gem; and "Mysteries" finally features some old-fashioned metalhead-approved roars. But in retrospect, Hole has become a dated relic of the flannel era, an act that hasn't really transcended the time from which it came. And if the Yeah Yeah Yeahs aren't careful, in another decade they might only be remembered as the token femme-art-punk representatives of the great '00s NYC rock resurgence.