Rantings, reviews and lists from a person who structures half his life around obsessing over music.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz! (2009)

3.0 ★/6.0 - 6.9

It's almost too obvious that The Yeah Yeah Yeahs should never have gotten as big as they did after Fever To Tell. The problem is that Karen O and company have always sounded best when you could hear their filthy NYC garage background (see the early EPs). Nick Zinner's monstrous razor-blade guitar, Brian Chase's precise yet minimalist drumset and Karen O's desperate shrieks captured a sound that was positively vital at the time. On their debut LP, emotive tracks like "Maps" and "Y Control" worked because they were the exceptions and therefore managed to deepen the bands signature cacophony. But instead of using that as a stepping stone, they foolishly made it a blueprint and stumbled into a field that was dominated by countless bands already. Show Your Bones was Alternative Radio 101; as inoffensive and utterly lifeless as it could possibly be without actually being bad.

So that's why it might be hard to shake off the feeling of disappointment from It's Blitz. Even if their song-craft has improved from their last effort, the bottom line is that they're still stumbling in the wrong field for them and it couldn't be more obvious since they're now messing with Electro Pop and New Wave. Ultimately, the best thing to take away from It's Blitz is that, with a mastermind as consistently brilliant as David Sitek behind the board, they could easily get back on track at any time. His noisy, mind-blowing studio magic tricks are what make The Yeah Yeah Yeahs unambitious vision on It's Blitz worth hearing. The dangerously radiating laser beam synths on "Zero", the noisy wall of majestically towering sound on "Skeletons", the backwards yawning on "Soft Shock", the staccato horns coming in at the end of "Hysteric" and the twin fluttering guitars on dance-punk beast, "Dragon Queen", all seem to benefit from the cues they take from last years' major album of the year, Dear Science. But therein lies the problem. Ultimately, this is just a watered down version of Dear Science. Whenever Sitek steps back to let the front-people do their thing, The Yeah Yeahs Yeahs hardly distinguish themselves. Sure, they've got an ear for a hook or two, and Karen O still sounds great, but a braver band wouldn't waste their time dramatizing new age stinkers like "Heads Will Roll" or "Little Shadow", grandstanding on the overlong "Runaway" or dulling up the already-dull "Dull Life" with a series of power chords The Offspring wouldn't mind using. The band deserves credit for trying something new, as well as crafting an album that feels fully formed, but once you strip away the gloss and sheen from the highlights, this is a hollow indie-lite affair.

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