Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Off With Your Head

I was not really a Yeah Yeah Yeahs (YYYs hereafter for brevity's sake) fan upon hearing "Date with the Night," the band's first single. In fact, I kind of hated it. I can handle screamy and abrasive, but to me, it was, "Look at how screamy and abrasive we are!" without anything interesting about it. I had written the band off when I heard "Maps," which went a long way toward rehabilitating them for me, but I considered it mostly a fluke and continued to mostly ignore their output.

This began to change, however, when I heard a review of the new YYYs album, It's Blitz!, on the NPR show Sound Opinions, in which the hosts each gave it a "Buy It" ranking (their highest mark). The song clips intrigued me, so I sought out the album, and whoa do I love it.

It's Blitz!
shows a dancier, calmer, more vulnerable side to the band that is instantly becoming after the borderline obnoxious swagger of their past output. There are a number of surprisingly affecting ballads, in which Karen O. shows off the yearning and likability we first saw in "Maps." The best of these is "Hysteric," which is so successful in winning you over that you don't really notice the cliched nature of lines such as "You suddenly complete me." (Close second: "Runaway," which is propelled by an aching piano line and moody synth strings.)

There's still some edge to the sound, lest ye be concerned the YYYs have lost their edge. "Dull Life" is yelping and energetic without being grating, and lead single "Zero" is probably the most instantly exciting song on the album. The best track on the album is of this vein: "Heads Will Roll" features Karen declaring "Off with your head/dance 'til your dead" over a thumping disco beat and it's awesome. (This may have to be my new life motto.)

How you feel about this album will probably have a lot to do with what you thought of prior YYYs work. If you're one of those "Date with the Night" fans, you might see this as a cop-out from the band, or even worse, a mellowing with age. However, for me, It's Blitz! is just a refinement of their earlier sound to something more interesting, engaging, and ultimately, more satisfying.

You should probably get it.

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