Jun 11

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs: “Gold Lion”


A cover as inscrutable as this song’s lyrics.

I’m not one of those people who analyzes song lyrics that closely. In fact, it doesn’t make too much difference to me if I can understand their meaning or not. Of course, it’s great when a song’s lyrics mean something to me and can evoke certain emotions or memories — a song can be that much more powerful if it makes that kind of a connection. But I often get just as much enjoyment from a song that I can’t make heads or tails out of in terms of what the singer is talking about. Sometimes I literally can’t understand what they’re saying; other times I can understand the words but don’t really know what they’re talking about. Either way, the important thing is that the singing fits well into the surrounding music, acting as another instrument in the band more than anything else.

“Gold Lion,” from The Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ 2006 album, Show Your Bones, falls into that latter category: I can understand pretty much every word that Karen O sings on it, but I haven’t the slightest idea what it’s supposed to be about. Sure, I could work out some possible meaning, but that kind of overanalysis can detract from just letting the sound of a song do its magic. And that’s why “Gold Lion” is so great. The acoustics of the song, building from the crisply recorded acoustic guitar strums to the sharp drum hits, electric guitar attack, and Karen O’s “ooh oohs,” coalesce into a fantastic wave of sound that washes over and around you. Karen O’s distinctive vocal presence, reminiscent at times of Siouxsie (of the Banshees) but with a more aggressive edge, cuts through the music like a knife but at the same time acts as the glue between the drums and guitar, and those “ooh oohs” are proof that a song’s best moments often have little to do with the lyrics. On “Gold Lion,” the Yeah Yeah Yeahs toned down their slash-and-burn sound, reigning their music into a tighter structure and sharper focus, but lost none of their power in the process.

There’s a pretty cool video for this song, so I’m including it here as well. Karen O is always fascinating to watch…

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