Laced with electronic influence, It’s Blitz! brought another round of eccentric art-punk from some of New York’s finest. Smoother around the edges than its predecessors, Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ third LP introduced newfound maturity and intricacy to their repertoire and hasn’t aged a day.
There are few bands who have as unique a sound as Yeah Yeah Yeahs, who effortlessly splice an electric mix of gritty guitar riffs, eccentric genre-blending and the inimitable vocal shriek of frontwoman Karen O. Though they haven’t released any new material since 2013, their four albums to to date each have their own highly individual place in the last two decades of alternative music. Arguably one of the most underrated rock acts of the 21st century, Yeah Yeah Yeahs create fresh and undiluted music that’s capable of being both wonderfully unaffected by musical trends and timelessly fashionable. It’s Blitz!, which has just turned 10 years old, is a case in point.
The difficult third album
It’s probably more accurate to say Yeah Yeah Yeahs got over the difficult hurdle on album #2, Show Your Bones. Though the follow-up to critically acclaimed debut, Fever To Tell is also a fantastic album, it’s not the one the band intended to make. It’s Blitz!, on the other hand, was a return to the idiosyncrasy of their debut, bringing back the punk aggression that was noticeably less prominent on its successor. It contains some of the bite of Fever to Tell but adopts the smoother, fuller production of Show Your Bones. In terms of style however, it’s an entity of its own.
Zero to sixty
The album’s opener, Zero, lets you know within seconds that the band are taking a new music direction. With four-to-the-floor drum beats and a pneumatic drill of a lead synth pushing the normally dominant guitar to the background, the energetic Zero is very deliberately placed at the start to set the tone of the album. It transitions seamlessly into the album’s biggest (and maybe Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ most famous) single, the absolute floor filler that is Heads Will Roll. Whether you’ve heard this as the original or the A-Trak remix perennially included in nightclub playlists, you’ll instantly recognise the sprawling, three-note intro. Told from the point of view of Alice In Wonderland’s Queen of Hearts, Heads Will Roll is led by Karen O’s bellow of “Off with your head! Dance ’till you’re dead!” and razor-sharp guitars. It’s a classic.
After the two-song dance introduction, the much softer side of It’s Blitz! comes to the fore with Soft Shock. While it does have an electronic core, Soft Shock is the first of a collection of much tamer tracks for Yeah Yeah Yeahs. This tender number follows into the halcyon Skeletons, which uses a very stripped back instrumentation to build an atmospheric and intimate soundscape to match the pensive lyrics. Skeletons is a really beautiful track and probably the most docile piece of music Yeah Yeah Yeahs has made to date. The same style is applied to Runaway, which builds slowly to a stormy climax, and Little Shadow. Runaway is probably my favourite Yeah Yeah Yeahs song because of how serene yet moody it manages to be. Though these four tracks are much less dynamic than the rest of the album, they do share the prominent use of synths and other electronic instruments.
Bringing the punk
The album brings back some of the punk that made Fever to Tell a hit in Dull Life, an aggressive and cascading song that’s undoubtably the most traditional rock song on the album. It also lacks the electronic touch of the rest of the album; as does Shame and Fortune, which could also be disguised as a Fever to Tell track. Rounded off with the band’s first attempt at synth-pop on Dragon Queen and Hysteric, It’s Blitz! combines a mix of influences to create a textured and evolving album.
While it probably ranks under Fever to Tell in terms of the footprint it left on the alternative music scene, It’s Blitz! is absolutely as good in terms of the music and the style; and far more polished in its production. Some portions of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs fanbase maintain that their music is best raw and unrefined but without this newfound maturity, It’s Blitz! wouldn’t have been made. I absolutely love this album so I’m very glad it was – the combination of electronica, punk and a new delicacy makes a really unique listen that simply never gets old.