Written by: Carl Johnson, Special to CC2K
The third album for a band is normally its most telling.
It is time for New York’s own The Yeah Yeah Yeah’s to release their new full length, It’s Blitz!, which is already getting hyped all over the internet and in every major magazine but after this album are they still going to be seen as heads of a booming indie scene, or another mainstream disappointment, leaning on mindless dance drivel instead of carving new trails?
The 42-minute LP starts with current single “Zero.” The spacey guitars, with continual build-up, pack the sort of wallop that kicks off an album perfectly. Each phase of the song gets an extra layer of sound, an extra little pick me up, an extra little kick in the ass, just as Karen O’s vocals get louder and louder in my earphones. I found myself doing the robot for a minute of the song. But then this IS the first single of the album. This IS the song that is going to sell this record and this IS the best way to start off the record. It just doesn’t prepare you for the psudo dance rock filth this album is going to pour into your ears.
Like the indistinguishable “indie rock” drifting out of a dim hipster bar in Hollywood, “Off With Your Head” just comes off sounding like warmed over dance-punk cheese. Quesadilla cheesy.
Upon first listen I just had my head tilted and thought the only thing that would top this off would be a really bad synth drum beat. Then came the really bad synth drum beat. The wave of euphoria from “Zero” quickly melted.
And then the beat dropped completely.
I bet one of these first few dance tracks will be remixed into DFA perfection or even given Mark Ronson treatment, and will then be wildly popular or respected. Yes, many of the songs on this album have catchy beats or something in itself interesting enough to be catchy, but as a full individual song many seem like they are waging to recapture a TV on the Radio cast-off or something that The Rapture might include on a B-side. Blame producer Dave Sitek, perhaps, for trying to make a threesome sound like a 5-piece. I’d be shocked if the cluttered sound will be possible live without hiring some new touring musicians.
If the first half of the album is too dancey, the rest of the album in contrast is full of slow songs with buildups that never go anywhere. I love the swirling guitars of “Skeleton” and Karen O’s cooing voice, but like a massage without the happy ending, there’s no climax. The fast drum clicking leads you to believe your ears are going to be assaulted which is what I want from my YYY’s record. I want my ears to have to complain to human resources the next day about being violated on the job. But the aural assault of “Maps” or “Tick” rarely makes an entrance on It’s Blitz!, except for an occasional few seconds, tucked away here or there.
Every time the YYY train is leaving the station, it derails. “Dull Life”, a song with a Franz Ferdinand guitar riff, gets to a part where Karen O is finally screaming and letting it wail, but then fades and then…
…nothing! Again! Just back to the normal chorus. The anticipated moment of catharsis never arrives.
“Shame and Fortune” has a really killer finale where the noise just keeps building. This is where It’s Blitz! finally sounds like it’s going to explode, because it has to, right? This album can’t continue to tease. But then the power goes out.
The epic “Runaway” is the only track that matches “Zero” punch for punch and has the same sense of grandeur that YYYs can create at times. But it’s going to be forgotten or singled out from the rest of It’s Blitz! for lack of context. Tucked in between “Dragon Queen” and “Shame and Fortune,” “Runaway” is a full five tracks away from its equal, but not too far to skip to or simply isolate in an iPod mix.
That’s not to say that the album is irredeemably bad. “Hysteric” has the full sonic assault much longed for, complete with whistling and layer after layer of guitar and noise. The folkie conclusion, “Little Shadow” is another bright note to help forget a rather forgettable work.
It’s Blitz! is almost two parts for me. The first two thirds of the album are fairly poppy dance tracks that just seem made for the 16 year old cool kids. The ones wearing neon 90’s glasses and leg warmers. But to these ears, an album of ten songs with two good tracks isn’t even worth pirating. I’ll plop down $1.98 at the iTunes store for the tracks that will endure.