By Liz Levine
There comes a time for some bands wherein they feel the desire to celebrate the movements that reared them, eras drenched in nostalgia and with their own rich musical histories. When Rilo Kiley harkened back to 70s glam rock with their latest Under The Blacklight, they shifted their style and approach without ceasing to sound, at root, like themselves. The sometimes enigmatic, sometimes see-right-through-’em Yeah Yeah Yeahs have taken a pointed turn towards the 70s and 80s that’s so palpable, they’re not merely influenced by these decades, they’re drenched in them. Gone are the scratchy, angsty garage sounds and raunchy house party disaffectedness of past albums, where dissonant wails and a booze-soaked ethos led the vanguard of post-punk fetishists and gave birth to something new. Instead, It’s Blitz! is a hyper-poppy, dancefloor synthfest that, while potentially alienating to die hard fans of the trio, will certainly not be warming any seats.
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs have always been a band that’s part ballsy and groundbreaking, and part caricature, constantly struggling to distinguish their music from their much built-up personas. Whether they’re spotlight whores or the media’s innocent victims we may never know, but with their third release it’s at least made clear that they don’t give a crap. It’s Blitz! successfully takes the YYY’s to an entirely new place, and is ripe with the elements that give a band cred and even staying power: diversity, experimentation, and genre-bending. Except that it doesn’t sounds like the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s at all. One finds themselves wondering quite quickly “Where the hell are the drummer (Brian Chase) and guitarist (Nick Zinner)?” and the disc as a whole sounds more like a Karen O side project than anything else. Her vocals, though tamed in places and applied to various new avenues, are distinct as ever.
After electro 80’s dance jam “Zero,” urges us to “Get your leather on,” “Heads Will Roll” takes us deep into Karen O’s personal wonderland, where creepy Clockwork Orange drone taunts behind a hyper glitter party that feels like a dance-till-you-drop nightclub in hell as she commands “Off with your head / Dance till you’re dead / Heads will roll / On the floor.” There is however still some guitar rock to be heard, with “Dull Life” cranking our the YYYs classic screeches and driving lows we’ve come to expect, until the track inches into Footloose shake-it territory and O’s vocal melody follows the guitar line.
Then, the album’s final four songs take us on another trip, unexpected to be sure, but hinting further towards that commendable range. The piano plinking “Runaway” is the starkest thing we’ve heard yet, exposing loads about O’s vocal capabilities and intricacies, eventually giving way to an eerie dreamscape with soaring synths and Xanadu “Ooh ooh ooh’s.” “Dragon Queen” is an experiment in funk that’s a bit Bee Gees and a bit Blondie, while “Little Shadow” is a downright adorable bedroom ballad that’s lovely melodically and makes you feel warm and fuzzy towards Karen, somehow. While this disc might be far from the raging, anxious, and decidedly modern sounding Yeah Yeah Yeahs of yore, it’s a commendable dip into new lands and shows that at their core, these folks are just here to make incredibly catchy music.