Pitchfork: 8.1 Rolling Stone: 4/5 Metacritic: 82 Spin: 4.5/5
Released: March 2009
Heads Will Roll
Shame And Fortune
In truth, I haven’t been much good in keeping up with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs since they started showing up in my Spin magazines I was issued back in high school. I make the confession because there’s a vibe to the band, a seemingly underground NY-hipster persona, suggesting that any self-respecting indie music listener would follow and likely even adore this female-led trio (keyboardist Nick Zinner and drummer Brian Chase may share equal input with singer Karen O, but it’s her vocals that leave the dominating impression).
I decided to be a late bloomer with It’s Blitz!, a decision I’m glad I made, as this third album probably worked to draw me in more than their first two albums could have. While Fever to Tell boasts the epic ballad “Maps” (recently voted #386 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time), I found the rest of the songs too grungy and chaotic to find much in the way of melodic joy. And while I don’t know much about Show Your Bones (on my soon-to-do list), It’s Blitz! is so progressively better than Fever to Tell in my mind that anything in-between the two just couldn’t be as good.
The album’s best two tracks kick things off into high-gear, which, while perhaps not the most effective ordering, remains badass. “Zero”, named the best track of the year by both NME and Spin, is a confident and catchy song that builds off of persistent guitar and synth riffs throughout. Though I don’t find Karen O particularly attractive, I can’t help but be aroused when she lets her voice soar to reach impossible highs, or similarly when she brings it down for her karate-kick “Ha!”s atop the synth solos. In a similar vein, “Heads Will Roll”, though darker, sticks a dance-y beat to half-creepy, half-poppy strings, a 50/50 combination also evident in the vocals, Karen O commanding, “Off with your head! Dance ‘til you’re dead!” The amazing video can be viewed below.
“Soft Shock” slows things down, but is by no means a dragger of a song. It’s bass-y, a bit spacey, and a little more thoughtful in nature. “Skeletons” follows, and at five minutes, is the album’s epic daydream anthem. Karen O sings about love and skeletons and other precious reflections, the background noise taking two minutes to progress into something more powerful and substantial, aided by the perfect marching band percussion by Chase. This continues for some time, and is worth dragging out.
“Dull Life” and “Shame and Fortune” seem somewhat fillers, not bad upbeat tracks, but nothing too special. “Runaway”, however, the other 5+ minute track, comes close to rivaling “Skeletons” in epicness, growing from simple and airy piano ballad (though not without tension) into a deep-stringed, percussion-heavy wall of sound, Karen O “oohing” up and down. In sharp contrast, “Dragon Queen” follows as the most oddball, funkiest, and dare I say disco-sounding tune. At first I avoided it, but the annoying guitar riffs get less annoying with time.
“Hysteric” is another gem, O sounding the most un-badass I’ve ever heard her as her voice sweeps through a soft and then less soft pop tune. Appropriate ender “Little Shadow” gives us the emotionally-subdued singer contemplations combined with organ and deep, battlefield drums that have come to typify many an album’s closing vibes, and so far the method still works. All in all, It’s Blitz! was just what I needed to turn me onto the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and really, finally, feel welcome in their indie scene.