Uh-Oh, Karen O Holds It Together:
by: Kim Amir Sitafalwalla For the simple fact that everything good has already been done I seldom follow contemporary anything. There are a few bands, however, that demand attention and I wholeheartedly follow their releases, tour dates, and if they have any, causes they are fervent about. Yet, again and again I am disappointed by current music's cookie cutter production, one-dimensional lyrics, and lack of ingenuity, though I put hope in the bands that deviate from this lackluster norm… I wonder if I am too young to be so cynical. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs are a band I totally dig. I rock out to their records because they are distinct, fun, edgy and, at least as their older stuff goes, not catered towards commercial success. Boy, was I let down upon listening to their most recent LP release, It's Blitz.
Okay, lets put aside the critical analysis. The band has been progressively watering down their art punk slash New York indie rock and instead trading it in for a poppy, dancy, Blondie-esque sound circa 1979. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs have, however, kept some consistency with the strong, feminine vocals distinct to Karen O, the sing-along choruses, and Nick Zinner's simplistic, catchy guitar riffs. The opening song, also their first single, "Zero," has a similar vibe to 2006's "Gold Lion," yet does not show any signs of progress. Don't get me wrong, it’s a good single, its easy to groove to and has all the facets of a Yeah Yeah Yeahs song to make it theirs, but that rawness and punk attitude appears to have been traded in for pop. The cheesy synthesizers in the next track, "Heads Will Roll" is paired with a disco feel but eighties sound… nothing new except for the fact that this dance-y music is supposed to be the "evolved" YYY's. Still no harm done; the next two tracks are slower—more like Show Your Bones, though still no Fever To Tell reminiscence—but ballads are typical to the band. It is these ballads that the general public go for that make the US charts. Take 2003's "Maps," which made it to #9, and as a whole, the album Fever to Tell rocked harder than that one song. But radio listeners opt for the catchy single; it seems the band went from there and as the years pass on they have diluted their sound—next thing we know they might get Timbaland to produce their next record. What's in demand is "electro-pop" and I guess the trio thought that they might as well give it a spin. Maybe I'm being too harsh, maybe my expectations are too high, but the band does reaffirm themselves as one of my favorites of contemporary music with track number five tactfully placed in the middle of the record: "Dull Life," picks the listener back up, throws him against the wall, and demands that he shake his booty while singing along. Another un-notable track is one that was probably passed over by Donna Summer and given to the YYY's to record: "Dragon Queen" sounds like it should be spun in an obscure warehouse with bell bottomed, polyester wearing, androgynous pill popping dancers. Still, the layered guitar and bubbly synthesizers make for a catchy beat. The rest of the album is non-monumental except for Karen O's vocals, she is the drumbeat of the band using her voice as the strongest instrument. At times it’s girlish, Lolita innocent sounding, and at other times it’s a don’t mess with me, "I'm tough," that reminds us of the self-titled EP released eight years ago.
It's Blitz is no way near the garage-y indie rock of Fever to Tell that gave them their status in 2003; its dance-y, its electronic, its synth-y, and its indie POP (although I don't think the band qualifies as indie anymore, since they are being released on Interscope). In spite of these misgivings I will listen to this record while getting dressed for a night of debauchery, I will listen to this record in the car, and I will listen to it while burning calories in the gym; it’s versatile and bound to put anyone in a good mood.