Music News

The O Show

Karen O, the focal point of any Yeah Yeah Yeahs show, works the stage like Iggy Pop in fishnets, a force of unnatural nature overdoing every gesture, every post-"Rock Lobster" vocal tic, until you'd have to be a fool to turn away. She's part train wreck as performance art, part undeniable rock goddess.

So it's kind of weird to hear her say she sucks at karaoke.

But apparently, it's true, a bomb she drops while getting to the bottom of her crazed onstage demeanor.

"I've come to realize that where it all started," O explains, "was on the dance floor" — not at the karaoke bar, where O may (by her own admission) suck, but where other people seem to find their inner rock star.

Or is it their inner American Idol contestant?

"In my late teens, early twenties, I'd go to these Northern Soul nights in New York," she says, "where I'd be dropping to my knees and doing really exhibitionist stuff. I think the seed was planted there and it just kind of carried over to the stage, that sort of liberated sense of abandon."

While she says she's tried to tone it down a bit since falling off a stage head-first in Sydney, that sense of abandon played a crucial role in the Yeah Yeah Yeahs emerging as the toast of New York's hipster-friendly rock 'n' roll revival, the buzz of their live show quickly reinforced by a spirited five-song debut that found O tempting fate in the chorus "Our Time," predicting "It's our time to be hated."

But the hatred never came.

And as the Yeah Yeah Yeahs bring their tour in support of the band's second awe-inspiring album, Show Your Bones, to Arizona, O says she's hoping to reach as many people as she can.

"I think we get tagged too often as an art-rock punk band or something," she says. "And anyone would shy away from that who wasn't, like, a hipster or something. But the thing is, we've grown into something that's broader and bigger and more accessible. Accessible is not a dirty word."

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Ed Masley