Rating: 6.75 out of 10
In 2002, Yeah Yeah Yeahs singer Karen O was interviewed for a documentary entitled, Kill Your Idols, that focused on NYC’s No Wave movement in the late 70s and how it influenced the millennium’s crop of retro-wavers and two-car garage rockers. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs were still an up and coming act whose presence was regionally felt, Fever To Tell and “Maps” yet to wrap themselves around hipster America’s cerebral cortex. Karen O, amidst an unsettling surplus of “like, like, y’know,” basically appropriates the unoriginal Noel Gallagher-ism about acting like the biggest band in the world. I can’t say it hasn’t gotten her far.
As the motored fuzz of 2003’s Fever To Tell rang in an era of noise for Karen O and her two faithful Yeahs (Yeah #2, guitarist Nick Zinner, and Yeah #3, drummer Brian Chase), the badass fishnet anti-fashionista hollering and gasping like Siouxsie Sioux mid-smoker’s hack has found the excess and glamorous plasticity in being a rock star, and now wears it with dazzled extravagance like a fine fur. It’s Blitz, the Yeahs’ third album, takes the bleeding ink stamped hand of Karen O, washes it, manicures it, and gently escorts it through the velvet rope and past the doors of VIP exclusivity. Meet Karen Ohhhhhhh. Watch the bulbs flash.
It’s easy to say that she went Blondie, NYC’s celeb-sampler of rock females providing enough examples for ease of comparability. But, as the Yeah Yeah Yeahs have made for themselves at least a credible ink spot in the annals of contemporary music, I believe it’s fair to say that O is working to fashion her own celebrity, twisting the source material enough to tie it firmly around her microphone. She’s gotten fabulous about it that’s all, ”glitter on the wet streets/silver on everything” her new steez.
However, I wouldn’t accuse It’s Blitz! of being anything other than a progressive experiment, as O is still in the dressing room, her partners left holding the purse, sitting on the cushioned meat seat while she figures it all out and asks, “How about this one? What about this one?” As the album’s first single, “Zero,” sparkles like a disco ball exchanging reflections with a coke mirror, its clubbish, dance-friendly drive is a shock to anyone unaware of their shift.
Maintaining some post-punk cred with producer Nicky Launay (Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, PiL, Gang Of Four), aided by TV On The Radio’s Dave Sitek, It’s Blitz! caters to an historical perspective regarding the permutation of punk to post-punk to new wave, as the initial “fuck you” gesture of crudely sewn rags ultimately mutates into Madonna-wear. O demands, “Dance! Dance! Dance till you’re dead,” for glam’d shaker “Heads Will Roll” and then seemingly questions everything with the fuzz rut “Shame And Fortune,” (”Shame is soft and safe/Lose when I play your game”).
There’s nothing particularly exciting about the music herein: “Shame And Fortune” fashions a decent enough riff, “Dull Life” tries to retain some of YYY rock sensibility. Even dance track, “Dragon Queen,” carries a thick bass groove that gets in your head for days and days.
But, O carries this album, charisma enhancing its not-so-distinguished or interesting pseudo-vitality. “Softshock” is light and forgettable, “Skeletons” is overdone and melodramatic, “Runaway”’s repetitious hook overpowers all the symphonic layers meant to sweeten its resolve. And yet, it’s not bad. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs are ambitious in their determination to make themselves anew, and that’s commendable. But they’re unsure how to make it work. It’s Blitz! is really a testament to Karen O and her progression as a rock icon, as opposed to her progression as the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ lead singer.
Granted, it wouldn’t help YYY to remain a huffing and puffing wolf of a noise band, revving to blow houses down as if that wouldn’t get boring after awhile. But, as Karen O continues to work her way into NYC’s post-CBGB rock consciousness, it would help if the band were all on the same page. Or, at least if they sounded like they were.
Letters From A Tapehead