Yeah Yeah Yeahs
By David M. Goldstein | 31 July 2009
Ok, so we here at CMG are admittedly a little late to the game on this one. The latest Yeah Yeah Yeahs record was released in, what, March? And now we’re nearly in the dog days of August. I attribute this to the fact that I can’t think of many albums in recent memory that have worn out their honeymoon period faster than It’s Blitz!, a record that yours truly might have considered at least a mid-70 two weeks or so after its initial release.
That was likely before I realized that Nick Zinner sounds as if he and his guitar were locked out of the studio while the album was being recorded. Most prior reviews (OK, so, all reviews) have gone to great lengths to discuss everything that was supposedly wrong with 2006’s Show Your Bones, ranging from dysfunctional band member relationships (oh, BFD) to underwritten songs, to flat production courtesy of Spike Jonze’s brother. All to which this guy (and likely fellow CMG scribe and huge Bones fan Sean Ford) says, “Fuck all that, Show Your Bones was awesome!” And then I’d go on to say that Nick Zinner’s uber-heavy guitar was consistently manifest in the name of both awesome riffage and beautiful shoegaze and that Brian Chase hit the skins hard with a dexterity calling to mind the Rock Fight scene from Up In Smoke where Tommy Chong is playing with drum sticks roughly the size of human arms.
Most of that sonic rage is in absentia on It’s Blitz!, which is part OK electro dance record and part atmospheric boredom courtesy of producer nerd David Sitek, who, it’s becoming increasingly clear, saves all of his best ideas for his main squeeze TV On the Radio. To the extent that Blitz is enjoyable, it’s mostly on the strength of its first three songs, all dance numbers far more reliant on sequencers and keyboards than guitars, but still very catchy and (reasonably) fun. Karen O, to her credit, sings more than shrieks this time out, commanding the listener to “shake it, like a ladder to the sun” in opener “Zero”; you’d have to be dead from the waist down not to comply. Whether or not throbbing disco is really what one wants from the YYYs is up for debate, but it’s still one of the most exuberantly catchy singles of the year…and jams like Madonna’s “Ray of Light.” “Heads Will Roll” is similar, if a little weaker, and “Soft Shock” throbs like classic New Order.
“Skeletons” casts a somewhat charming haze the first few times you hear it, but then you’ll struggle to recall anything at all notable about Blitz’s maddeningly non-descript middle third; not for nothing there’s a song called “Dull Life.” “Runaway” was fine soundtracking a particularly poignant Blair&Chuck scene on Gossip Girl but just sounds like overwrought melodrama here, fake strings where the rock guitar ought to be. And the three-song denouement starting with “Dragon Queen” is all Sitek and all yawn-inducing. “Hysteric” in particular aims for resonance, but just ends up sounding like a weak “Maps” retread.
Prior to It’s Blitz!’s release, Yeah Yeah Yeahs stated how they considered 2007’s excellent Is Is EP to signal the conclusion of their dirty rock phase. While I applaud their desire to evolve, I’m frankly concerned. They still need to play to their strengths, and without Nick Zinner’s lethal riffage the YYYs risk being utterly forgettable. Here’s hoping for more decibels and less Sitek on LP4.