YEAH YEAH YEAHS – It’s Blitz! (Polydor)
I hardly need to say it again, as it has been all over the press since the release of this album, but just in case you missed it, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs have ditched the guitars for synthesisers and made a dance album. Now they always had a dance element to their music, but bringing it this much to the fore was something of a risk, as it could have alienated their hardcore fans. Luckily for them overall opinion has been favourable, and this is mainly down to the fact that despite not having the attack of a guitar on most tracks they still imbue each song with some, sometimes surprising, power. A good example of this is opening track and lead single ‘Zero’, which starts of as a pretty straight-forward disco-tinged song, but when the synths do come in for a solo they are so in-your-face that you realise that sometimes you don’t need that guitar. ‘Heads Will Roll’ and ‘Soft Shock’ are another couple of dance-floor fillers, but they still retain the band’s indie credentials. After hearing this opening trio of songs you begin to realise that this is not just the band’s dance album, but it is also their most overtly pop album, with the rough edges smoothed off the music, and Karen O’s vocals less of a shriek and more melodic. The next track, the ballad ‘Skeletons’, is the clearest example of this so far, having a particularly catchy tune, and with some fine martial drumming by Brian Chase driving it along. ‘Dull Life’ is a song of two halves, having a dreamy intro before the chorus crashes in, accompanied by some fiery guitar from Nick Zinner – sounding all the better for the fact that I was not expecting it. ‘Runaway’ is another ballad, and like ‘Skeletons’ it is almost a pop song, enhanced in this case by the synths acting as a string backing. The disco sound is at its most evident on ‘Dragon Queen’, although luckily sounding more like Tom Tom Club than the Bee Gees, and the album closes with a couple of ballads, with ‘Hysteric’ winning out as something of a synth-pop gem, and ‘Little Shadow’ going down the acoustic route. I must admit that when I heard about the band’s change of direction I feared that it would be Bloc Party all over again, but where they went from indie-rock to dance, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs have gone from indie-dance to dance, and so it is less of transition for me to accept. Obviously this album will never eclipse the raw power of their first two albums, but it is less of a disappointment than ‘Intimacy’, and it can be enjoyed on its own merits as an excellent indie-pop/dance crossover.