Premature Evaluation: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz!
Major questions (and complaints) about Yeah Yeah Yeahs third full-length will undoubtedly center around the prevalence of synthesizers and various electronics and seeming lack of Brian and Nick’s standard drum and guitar blazes. Icy and fuzzed analog synthesizers and skittering electronic beats do appear on It’s Blitz!, and considering the emphasis usually placed on Zinner’s excellent tones and riffs and Chase’s manic beats, it is startling at first. On repeat listens, though, Karen O’s voice takes command and it becomes clearer that no matter what’s going on around her, she can still make heads roll. Or, more apropos of It’s Blitz!, make you dance til you’re dead.
You’ve likely heard the first two tracks, “Zero” and “Heads Will Roll.” If you hated both, there’s still a chance you’ll like It’s Blitz!. You’ll just have to accept the instrumental shifts and move on. “Soft Shock,” the track that follows the pair, is a softer but still bouncy piece. It also feels less Berlin, 1989 than “Heads.” It’s followed by the pulsing, balladic “Skeletons,” where O takes on her “Maps” tone over spare martial drums (and some drum sticks tapping) and an upswing of an army of keys. “Dull Life” keeps the dark, quiet feel — somehow Western noir — but then blasts into something where O can shout and stomp while Zinner clicks into a sharp guitar part and Chase is Chase. The next track, “Shame and Fortune,” keeps it sweaty, seamlessly blending the old and new strains into a dense rock ‘n’ roll strut.
You get these moments of more old-school YYYs, yes, but there really isn’t anything to crack eggs on Blitz! beyond. Still, it’s not easy listening. It can be quiet or muted — like the lovely, catchy piano-lined “I’d like you stay” song “Runaway” or the soaring “suddenly you complete me” power ballad “Hysteric” — but put on some headphones and pull on the various Sitek-produced sonic threads. It’s maybe the band’s most complex effort compositionally. The dance-floor funk of “Dragon Queen” (with TVOTR’s Tunde and Kyp) is maybe a bit whatever, unless it’s past 2 a.m. and you’re wasted and clubbing, but by and large, the transformation works. It helps that it’s followed by the immediately infectious “Hysteric” and the wispy, downcast closer “Little Shadow,” featuring Imaad Wasif on guitar, which like a good torch song, climbs into the stratosphere by the time it ends.
It’s Blitz! is a better listen than Show Your Bones and makes sense as a dark, but looser followup to the more intense, tightly coiled Is Is EP (give “Down Boy” a bank of synthesizers, for instance). Sure, it’s not Fever To Tell, but it’s not (at all) trying to be, so anyone expecting that should build themselves a time machine and try to recall what Liars sounded like during that same period. Things change, people change. (Remember Adore?) Yeah Yeah Yeahs have transformed their sound, yes, but they haven’t lost much (beyond those guitars, natch) in the process. They still sound like a real band.
It’s Blitz! is out 4/13 via Interscope.