After listening through the new Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ LP It’s Blitz, I feel like I am no more equipped to right a review than when I first heard their single “Zero” after it broke onto the scene a couple of weeks back. When asked whether or not I like the album, I think this is one of the few instances where a response of “it’s different” is probably the most appropriate answer.
No doubt, a lot of attention on the new album will be placed on Zinner’s new found love for synthesizers and electronic elements – preferring tinkering with dials in lieu of his trademarked thrashing guitar style – and will be solely credited with the bands failures or successes (depending on how you look at the album). After “Zero” was released, most critics reveled in the YYY’s ability to make rock-out dance music. However, once the next track “Heads Will Roll” leaked and it seemed that indeed the entire album would be made in the same electronic manner, the critics started backing away from their initial accolades citing reasons as their uneasiness with the group plunging headfirst into electronic while leaving guitar lines at the chopping block.
The parts that made the YYYs so well known and well received with their breakthrough album Fever to Tell are mostly there. Karen O’s unique “Karen O” voice, drummer Brian Chase’s precision and intricate beats, and Nick Zinner’s experimentation (this time with synths) are present everywhere, but what is probably most lacking is that bad ass attitude that got reflected in their music on past albums. Even on their Is Is EP, the most recent work prior to Blitz and a PTM favorite of 2007, Yeah Yeah Yeahs were able to absolutely blow the skin off your face with tracks like “Rockers to Swallow” and “Isis”. Blitz, however, contains much more restrained and muted songs more in the same vein as Show Your Bones which can be a bitter pill to swallow for original adopters of the group.
Not to say that this change in tone is necessarily bad; most of the songs I prefer on this album are more ballad-like pieces where Karen O produces some of the most haunting vocals that are accentuated more by the absence of ramped up guitar on acid. “Runaway” shows Karen O at her most vulnerable state – with pleas of “I was feeling sad // can’t help looking back // highways flew by-y-y” sung over an isolated piano before Zimmer chimes in with some chilling string loops midway through. When I first listened to “Skeletons”, the first thought that popped into my head was that if the Yeah Yeah Yeahs of today pulled a “Back to the Future” and got teleported to 2001, the new group would get their asses kicked for implementing a Scottish melody into a song with an beats-per-minute tempo that you can probably count on two hands. The second thought was “damn this is a good song, and I love everything about it”.
Not veering too far away from “traditional”, the YYYs follow “Skeletons” with “Dull Life” – an absolutely rocking anthem spearheaded Zinner’s blazing guitar line and Karen O’s shrieking voice. These seemingly conflicting thoughts of wanting the old but liking the new pushes and pulls you throughout most of the record causing you to reach an unsure evaluation once the last bars on the strikingly beautiful “Little Shadow” fade away.
Whether you like the album or hate it with all your heart, one thing is for sure is that after you listen to it you can’t help but want to talk about it with other people. It is no doubt an interesting album that will incite plenty of discussion with casual YYY listeners and diehard fans alike. For a group who was hell bent on making “something you can dance to”, they may have ended up creating one of the most talked about albums of the year. So pre-order your copy now and mark April 14th on the calendar!