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NYC art-rockers go in for some ch-ch-changes on excellent third album
Paul Nolan, 16 Mar 2009
On their third album, It’s Blitz, Yeah Yeah Yeahs have done something that, regrettably, appears to be increasingly unfashionable amongst the new breed of rock bands – they have completely reinvented their sound. By that, I don’t mean that they’ve added a few keyboard sounds, thrown on some strings and attempted to pass it off as a radical departure; no sir, they actually sound like a different band.
Thankfully, the trio’s musical experimentation has produced superb results. Jointly helmed by Nick Launay and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ long-term producer of choice, Dave Sitek, It’s Blitz finds the band metamorphosing into a powerful electro-rock unit, with a nice sideline in downtempo atmospherics. Opening track and first single ‘Zero’ is a dance-rock stormer that would sit comfortably among the output of the band’s NYC peers on the DFA label.
The album’s manifesto is perhaps best articulated on the following track, ‘Heads Will Roll, another groove sensation that finds Karen O hollering “Dance ’til your dead!” The group are in rather more introspective mood on the magnificent ‘Skeletons’, which has O keening “Love don’t cry” over synth notes from Nick Zinner. Martial drums fade in and out of the mix and all manner of electro effects tumble by. It’s an intoxicating musical cocktail.
‘Shame And Fortune’ is an avant garde rocker with corrosive guitar and thumping drums that recalls two of the best bands in the world right now (both of whom are contemporaries of the Yeah Yeahs Yeahs on the NYC art-rock scene) – Liars and Sitek’s own TV On The Radio. Thanks to the appearance of frontman Tunde Adebimpe on backing vocals, the TVOTR link is further deepened on the outstanding ‘Dragon Queen’, a funky tune with an irresistible dance rhythm.
For good measure, the group throw in a brace of dramatic art-rock epics in ‘Runaway’ and ‘Little Shadow’, the former a bewitching mix of spiralling strings, effects-laden guitar and electro noise, the latter (which closes the album) a suitably climactic composition that skilfully switches from Eno-esque mood piece to emotionally-charged torch song. It’s a fitting conclusion to one of the best albums of the year so far.