Saturday, 4 April 2009

But is it blitz?

I came around fairly late to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, I have to admit. While I was aware of them as they released Fever To Tell, 'Pin' and 'Maps' aside, their debut didn't make much of an impression on me. That all changed, though, at Reading 2006. I didn't fancy seeing Hundred Reasons with my best friend, so I figured I'd chill towards the back of the main stage for a bit. It was definitely a good decision; I experienced one of the most electifying live sets I've ever seen. As soon as I got home, I purchased Show Your Bones and instantly fell in love with it.

So, it's two-and-a-half years later and Yeah Yeah Yeahs are about to release their third album, It's Blitz! While undoubtedly eagerly anticipated, the album has got people talking - especially as it's been streamed for weeks now on Spotify. Much has been made of the band's "new direction", and when I first heard it my response was much the same as many other people's: "but where are the guitars?"

Because the guitar sounds on It's Blitz! are sparse, even absent on some tracks. The songs are far more synth-driven than anything the band have released before. The question is: does it work? Well, yes - in parts.

The chorus of 'Zero' brings to mind Blondie, which is by no means a bad thing, and 'Heads Will Roll' takes their new "disco" aspect into a dizzying spin. Best of all, however, is 'Hysteric' - this album's equivalent of (you've guessed it) 'Maps' or the wonderful'Dudley'. It's yearning, with a crushed vocal and a spine-chilling guitar hook that I've been incessantly humming for days.

There's little all-encompassing guitar sound such as that which made Show Your Bones so fantastic. It's a shame, too, that the few guitar-led tracks on It's Blitz! are the dullest, the most Yeah Yeah Yeahs-by-numbers tracks present here, particularly 'Dull Life' and 'Shame and Fortune'. It leads you into a quandry: you reach a point where you've just had too much synth (it does, after a while, just get a bit samey) but when it drops away for a track or two, you're left reaching for the skip button.

It also feels like a bit of a waste, too; Nick Zinner is arguably one of the best guitarists around right now, able to handle delicate melodies and spiky riffs with equal dexterity. While Zinner claims that he was open-minded to this change in instrumentation, he has admitted that he was strongly encouraged, nigh on pushed, into it.

It's Blitz! is by no means an instant album. It's also the sound of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs doing something fairly different from what they've put out in previous releases. It's a grower, but I am left wondering if they've limited themselves somewhat in trying to broaden their horizons. It's not as good as Show Your Bones, but then again - what could be?

Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Hysteric

1 comment:

  1. I like the synths. The pacing of the album seems a bit wrong to me though, and Yeah Yeah Yeah's are still a great band without a great record in my oppinion.

    Heads Will Roll through headphones at volume kills, though.