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May 4, 2009 | by  | in Music |
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Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz (Interscope)

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ new album, It’s Blitz, is party. Party for the club, party for the house, party for walking down the street, party in my pants. Party. Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, National vs. Labour party, block party, arty farty party, hearty party, smarty party. You know, like, party party.

Of course, the YYYs were always party; their debut album, 2003’s Fever to Tell was too, but also, well, feverish. The sweaty, sexy, hot kind of fever. Karen O’s voice—one moment drippy, the next shrieking—atop frenetic guitars and crashing drums combined to create an undeniable punk aesthetic, yet retaining the catchy choruses characteristic of pop. It was an album both loud and listenable—a delicate balance. Some critics claimed the scales tipped during the YYY’s second album Show Your Bones (2006), an album similar in vision, but softer, catchier, perhaps weaker.

It’s Blitz replaces Fever to Tell’s grittiness with snappy clapping sounds, pulsing beats and drum machines. The guitars are gone, but my thoughts lie not with what is missing, but what has been added: synth. And lots of it. Beautiful beautiful synth. The opening track, ‘Zero,’ is the most danceable, a song so anthemic that two years from now I will associate it with the year 2009, along with an imagined montage, of course. ‘Zero’ has an 80s aesthetic, zappy laser sounds that transcend cheesiness as a result of the integrity inherent in Karen O’s voice.

But It’s Blitz is not all just a dance in my pants. Some of the synthy-est songs are simply too slow in tempo to warrant a boogie. ‘Soft Shock’ for example—the sort of song which will be stuck in your head for days on end, but delightfully so. Particularly notable to this track are the chorus embellishments that sound like warped violins. Details such as this are what push the album from good to awesome—just when you think you’ve figured it out, the YYYs throw in an intrepid detail that pulls you in for more.

But the party will eventually end. And the YYYs have, ever so thoughtfully, provided for this inevitability with acoustic versions of ‘Soft Shock’, ‘Skeletons’, ‘Hysteric’, and ‘Little Shadow’. The perfect songs to accompany a raging hangover, while reminiscing about the night before and all of the stupid shit you never would have done while sober. These songs epitomise the word ‘acoustic’, with pretty strings, gentle folksy vocals and some tambourine thrown in to make the prettiest music soup I ever done tasted.

Okay, I do miss the old Yeah Yeah Yeahs a little bit—the raw energy and manic life bubbling beneath the surface, but this new stuff is great too. Just different. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs know their audience and know that to remain successful they needed to move on. The past isn’t gone, but the Yeah Yeah Yeahs are certainly looking towards the future. Rocket in the sky party, moon party, robotz party. Rawr.

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  1. James Beavis says:

    ELECTRONIC ORGASMZ

  2. A curious kweschun says:

    “atop frenetic guitars and crashing drums combined to create an undeniable punk aesthetic, yet retaining the catchy choruses characteristic of pop.”

    Punk always had that m’dear. I think you’re getting confused with post-punk which moved away from the rock’n’roll sensibilities of punk music and reworked the structure of punk, moving away from a chorus structure. Of course the YYY’s are curiously allocated into the fucking genre of post-punk-revival, which is all really just wanky bullshit. This has little to do with your review, I am merely demonstrating my superior knowledge.

    By the way, that is the worst opening paragraph I have ever read.

    ELECTRONIC ORGASMZ

  3. Kim Wheatley says:

    “This has little to do with your review, I am merely demonstrating my superior knowledge.”

    Yikes. What on earth were you thinking? Arguing about something as esoteric as the difference between punk and post punk is kind of like playing charades with the blind.

    Unfortunately for you, I think I’m pretty good at charades, and I think that your argument is pretty uninformed. If you are going claim to have some kind of superior knowledge then at least get your terms straight.

    Firstly, I think you missed the entire point that Maggie was trying to make just because you felt an impulse to come and demonstrate your wanky music knowledge through an argument over largely boring semantics. Trust me, masturbation is much more fun when you just play with your genitals.

    “atop frenetic guitars and crashing drums combined to create an undeniable punk aesthetic” – frenetic guitars and crashing drums are trademarks of punk, so that’s ok.

    “yet retaining the catchy choruses characteristic of pop.” – Sure, punk has choruses, but they tend to be shouted. The sung chorus is arguably THE definitive characteristic of pop. So what Maggie is highlighting here (as you can clearly see in here next few sentences) is that the YYY’s were able to alternate between shouted punk choruses and and more conventional pop singing.

    Speaking of post punk, are you sure about that point concerning a move away from the chorus structure? Let’s name some definitive Post-Punk classics shall we? Love will tear us apart, Just Like Heaven, Killing Moon and Once in a Lifetime.

    What do these songs have in common? Big pop choruses, that’s what. In fact, I’d say these songs all have more poppy choruses than say The Clash, or the Ramones, who tended to shout (punk) rather than sing (pop) on their choruses. Yes, post punk’s song structures became more complex, and the use of the guitar more varied (noise, delay effects, that kind of thing) but it’s not like anybody ever banned the chorus.

    I’d say the critical difference between punk and post punk was actually more to do with lyrical content. But don’t take it from me. Tony Wilson (probably about as reliable an authority on conceptions of ‘post-punk’ music as anyone) believed that Joy Division’s (THE definitive post-punk band) key contribution was to add some lyrical depth and meaning to that of punk, which could largely be summed up in two words: “fuck you.” For Joy Division it was more a question of “fuck why?”

    As for your statement about the YYY’s being post-punk revivalists. I’d say you’ve got that wrong too, rather, they started out as garage punk revivalists. Yes, on this album they have transitioned to a more post-punk sound through the increased use of synth, the reduction of shouting, etc, but Maggie’s review highlighted both of these things, so I don’t think there’s a problem there either. The key garage punk influences are the Stooges and the MC5. Artists who predated the post-punk movement by a decade. Once again, you don’t need to take it from me, , here’s what the allmusic guide (who label the YYY’s under garage punk) have to say about the genre:

    http://allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=77:7727

    And how do pitchfork describe Karen-O when reviewing their s/t EP?

    “a self-described female Iggy Pop whose nutty performances and beer-soaked minidresses have won over everyone from NME to John Peel.”

    Sounds like punk to me.

  4. matthew says:

    joey ramone sang almost all the time, and joe strummer sang heaps, you dick. and self-descriptions are completely irrelevant. i could call myself a generation-y michael morley, but that doesn’t mean shit.
    i only read the start and end of your comment, but if it was like that the whole way through then i’m glad i’m too lazy to read yr drivel.
    p.s. shut the fuck up about joy division.

  5. Kim Wheatley says:

    Ok, so my examples weren’t the best (The chorus of Blitzkrieg Bop was the first thing that popped into my head at the time), but what about, say, the Sex Pistols? The real point here is that I don’t think it’s unfair to say that most early punk vocalists were not exactly renowned for their singing, even the likes of Strummer and Joey were hardly vocalists with what you would call a conventional pop singing voice. After all, wasn’t one of the key tenants of early punk that anyone could do it and that you didn’t need a proper singing voice and that you could shout and pretty much get away with it?

    And since you are feeling lazy let me summarize my prior argument (which was basically Maggie’s as well):

    early YYY’s = primarily garage punk (influenced by The Stooges, MC5 etc) – not post-punk (which was the lazy point that kweschun was trying to make).

    It’s Blitz = YYY’s largely ditch their early sound, add lots of synth and Karen-O’s vocals become increasingly poppy (and therefore less raw and punky).

  6. fan-o-kim?? says:

    who made Kim the boss of every thing ???

  7. James Beavis says:

    Kim, you’ve GOT to stop referencing Pitchfork. It doesn’t lend itself well to your writing. IT’S NOT AN ENCYCLOPEDIA

  8. Your Name says:

    Oh Matt. Oh Kim.
    I’m so glad you’re coming up to Welly soon, Matt.
    I’m going to introduce you to each other.

  9. James Beavis says:

    August 3rd, here we come

  10. matthew says:

    Type here…

  11. Karen O says:

    Hello, everyone. It’s me — Karen O! I just thought you should know how important this thread is. In fact, this thread just ate my soul and now the thread and I are one. Forever! Yum!

  12. Maggie says:

    Oh my gosh, Karen O read my review! Wow! Hi, Karen O!!!

  13. Karen O says:

    Hi Maggie!!

  14. A curious kweschun says:

    Kim obviously can’t tell when someone is taking the piss out of themselves.

  15. Kelvin says:

    I HAVE AN OPINION TOO!!!!!

  16. Bruno says:

    “It’s Blitz” finds New York trio Yeah Yeah Yeahs headed in a more electro Rock direction, think No Doubt meets Moby/Giorgio Moroder and you get the picture. Out goes their heavy rocky sound (the machine gun-like “Machine”, for example) and in comes a synth-heavy dance sound.

  17. Karen O's girlfriend says:

    Who gives a fuck about genre all I care about is that I like what I’m listening to and I like listening to It’s Blitz alot!

  18. Lucy says:

    Shit Maggie. You sure know how to get people all riled up.

  19. Dan says:

    I hate to be disrespectful, but i really struggle to read this review without becoming frustrated and slightly bitter, it seems from these comments that I’m not the only one that feels this way about Maggie’s writing. Maybe she’s getting the response she wants, but if not i figured i should offer my opinion on what it is that gets everyone so “riled up.”

    Don’t get me wrong i think there is some good informative info in her reviews, but i cant help but feel that it often gets over-shadowed by all the unnecessary metaphors, analogies and claims that are also present in most of them. I think its great to add a bit of personality to make a piece of writing more interesting but in my opinion a reviewer needs to remember their fundamental role is to inform not entertain their readers..

    When I read her reviews i don’t get the impression that she cares about analyzing the music, or presenting in a way that helps people decide whether or not they should invest their own time in listening to the album. It seems to me that she just wants to demonstrate how clever and funny she can be, good work Maggie!. Then there’s always the possibility she isn’t a very confident person and feels that this job is her opportunity to impress people and feel good about herself, if so then i feel sorry for her.

    Either way its not what i look for in a review, and i hope that she might take what I’ve said on board in future and think more about the music and less about.herself. Although i do have a sneaking suspicion her response to this may be more of a snappy personal attack, full of humor, wit and childish metaphors no doubt.

  20. anon says:

    Hey idiot (Dan), ever heard of Pauline Kael? I thought not…

  21. Dan says:

    Hey Maggie! Thanks for the reply.

    Getting a bit ahead of yourself aren’t you..? It may come as a surprise, but you are not Pauline Kael. Maybe if you read more of her work you’ll realise that your reviews bear almost no resemblance.

    Other than the fact that you both use a lot of metaphors, hers actually had a point. Her writing was thought provoking and creative, yours childish and lazy.

    Just my opinion obviously.

  22. Your Name says:

    Hey Dan,

    Your powers of perception astound me, however, I wasn’t indicating that Maggie is as apt a reviewer as Pauline Kael, instead I was arguing that Pauline Kael paved the way for speculative, opinion based reviews, which are pretty much the norm now. Why single Maggie out, at least she’s more interesting than Pitchfork, for example.

    Also, who takes Salient reviews seriously: “Oh I better hurry down to the newstand and pick up the latest issue of salient… I hear they review the new YYYs album and this will help me make an educated decision as a consumer as to whether or not I buy it”.

    Give me a break.

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