If we lived in a just world, 2006’s Show Your Bones would have seen the Yeah Yeah Yeahs leap from artrock darlings to global dominators, holding all in their sway with displays of intricate bombast and sly rock rhythms. Alas, the world continues to disappoint, and the album somehow managed to make fewer waves than, the band’s immediate-but-patchy debut, Fever To Tell, and its anthem for angsting youth, ‘Maps’.
The band’s new record, It’s Blitz!, may be a response to that underwhelming reception; it is, in a sense, a change of direction: Nick Zinner’s angular guitars are here replaced with warbling synths, and Brian Chase’s quietly showy drumming finds itself supplemented by programmed beats. The melodies, too, seem changed, smoothed over and pinned down, more suited to their new contexts. Yet this is no dance album, and everything essential about the record remains within that old artrock niche – unpredictable structures, halting hooks, and, of course, Karen O’s arch, unifying vocal.
As always, K.O. represents the focal point of the LP, simultaneously the listener’s peer and priestess. Her lyrics are more gnomic than ever, perhaps reflecting the songs’ hazier form. It’s Blitz! is less a hybrid album as it is a fairly conscious reworking of the band’s vocubulary, however, and it uses that central voice as a largely unchanging guide to the new landscape. To some extent, all this is the sound of a scenester band following the scene, but the Yeah Yeah Yeahs are also cannier than that: It’s Blitz! drags the scene back onto the band’s own turf: ‘Heads Will Roll’ takes 80s revivalism and scrubs it dirty, whilst ‘Dull Life’ takes a Franz riff and refracts it through Zimmer’s sharper prism; and if everything is just that little bit more reserved, even in as simple an act as singing the word ‘crying’, Karen O infuses proceedings with a twist of the untramelled. The band remain one of the most intelligent and compelling acts to trip towards the mainstream.
And that cover’s perfect, too.