The days of Karen O howling over Nick Zinner’s dark, sporadic guitar parts may be over. Before all you Yeah Yeah Yeahs fans start chanting, “off with their heads,” you may just want to give the new synth heavy Its Blitz! a chance. Zinner’s guitar certainly hasn’t disappeared by any means, however the tracks are lighter, and will shake up your indie-dance party quicker than Thom Yorke walking through the room.
The album kicks off quickly with first single “Zero” which also turns out to be the first seemingly super sexual song (say that twice as fast), featuring such lyrical gems as, “Try and hit the spot/ get to know it in the dark.” Though the album continues on themes heard throughout the group’s history, the music is clearly jumping in a new exciting direction. “Zero” starts this, “Heads Will Roll” continues. The latter doesn’t even sound like a Yeah Yeah Yeah’s song, thanks to O’s sultry new vocals. It’s very synth heavy, and while the song may feature the most unique vocal tracks of the album, Zinner jumps in at all the right places and keeps it close to the home front.
The first semi-ballad of Its Blitz! kicks in next with “Soft Shock”. Though this isn’t the slowest track on the album, it certainly does reveal a softer side to things. The music here perfectly matches the lyrics sounding just like a “sharp shock, to your soft side,” as O describes here. “Skeleton” continues this with arguably one of the quietest tracks the band has ever put out. The first half of the track features O alone, before drummer Brian Chase kicks in with a military style drum part that continues throughout ’til the end of the track.
“Dull Life” begins as though it’s going to be another quiet, introspective tune, but ends up being one of the hardest rocking tracks of the album. O screams out, “We’ve seen the nightmare of the lies that you speak/ The beast that I lie beneath is coming in.” It’s a bold move on the album, and only made stronger as Zinner’s guitar comes out with power, sounding as fresh as ever. Before the album folds into silence again, “Shame and Fortune” rocks out in typical Yeah Yeah Yeah’s fashion. If you’re a fan of the Is Is EP, these harder and heavier tracks are definitely for you.
“Runaway” is one of the albums hallmarks, and hands down the best ballad of the bunch here. It’s an open look into the soul of O as she quietly sings out, “All along, not so strong without these open arms, hold on tight.” The orchestra mostly keeps quiet in the background (until close to the end), with fairly subdued piano and drum parts. It’s put together very well. In a complete turnaround, however, the funky “Dragon Queen” is a fun listen that could have easily come out of the late ’70s. Zinner has a blast here, which is short lived as dancier “Hysteric” kicks in shortly after sounding like it belongs in a John Hughes flick. O’s vocals sound less like herself and more Feist-like. All together the clapping, whistling and overall sound leave the song with a different, sweeter feel than the rest of the dance-y tracks. The very memorable, if not extremely subdued “Little Shadow” feels like walking through a Japanese garden as it opens. The very light plucking done by Zinner, and nearly non-existent drumming by Chase slowly fade up and then away as they close out the album in style.
While the album throws the Yeah Yeah Yeahs in a new direction, it’s not one that seems to come back in their face like another artist that recently tried something new. This new direction sounds fresh, creative, and original from the band. If (for some strange reason) you don’t like the sound of Its Blitz!, the good news is that nothing ever seems to stick long for these New Yorkers. They’re always trying to find something new, and that’s always exciting, at least to anticipate.