The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


Yeah Yeah Yeahs
It’s Blitz Daniel Ross , March 9th, 2009 11:18

Three years in the making, It's Blitz! has been billed as another departure for Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Upon their inception, only cretins would fail to notice that there was something in this band that set them apart from their contemporaries. While The Von Bondies, The Datsuns and The D4 wheezed into anonymity, this increasingly unconventional trio return with an album that shows a realisation of their initial promise. If anything, there's still room for them to expand and produce something further-reaching, but this is a fine example of a band no longer encumbered with the trappings of the pop song, and determined to express that.

Nick Zinner, most of all, has developed into a fine musician and composer, with an ear unrivalled in the muddy world of post-punk revivalism for texture and accompaniment. Throughout It's Blitz! he is the unwitting focus, with a blank canvas mentality that has no regard for genre – any comparisons to Kraftwerk or Eno or even Radiohead are somewhat useless, because he's created a sufficiently identifiable milieu of his own. Consequently, because it's the most sonically dense and inhuman of their records so far, vocalist Karen O has more to do than ever to make this a humanised performance. She is the conduit of emotional delivery, not the bleeps and sweeps behind her. Thankfully, the band's last two albums have secured her reputation as a leading pop orator, and the likes of 'Zero' (which, in all honesty could have been on the last Girls Aloud album) cement her further. 'Shame And Fortune' sees Ms. O join the likes of Yuki Chikudate and Satomi Matsuzaki as a vocalist deployed as an instrument, Berio-nuanced bringers of precise notation and quirky delivery. Her occasionally barbed lyrics remain, but this is less the squealing of yore than it is considered hysteria.

There are more ponderous moments let down by a drift towards whimsy – the whispering guitar lines in 'Softshock', for example, are tiny melodic nuggets that could have sustained a far longer song. Zinner's wily guitar rumbles in 'Runaway' signify clearer structural audacity than before, but their menace tempered and wrought more carefully would have produced a more epic result. Strangely, the precious humanity also comes flying back in the resolutely acoustic tom-toms in 'Skeletons', itself a close cousin of 'Maps' and simultaneously a step into a bombastic future. The synthesized orchestral augmentations sit perfectly alongside the childish vocal and increasingly martial drums, and create as mature an atmosphere as we've yet heard from the group. Similarly, the closing duo of 'Hysteric' (a misleading title) and 'Little Shadow' slow the pace of the album to a crawl, but end it on a resolutely forward-facing note.

In Nick Zinner, Yeah Yeah Yeahs have an accomplished and improving manipulator of sounds, and in Karen O they have a fine focal point. If lessons are learned and certain elements taken forward from It's Blitz!, then future recordings could well attain the grandiose potential touched upon here.