MUSIC REVIEWS: Yeah Yeah Yeah’s – It’s Blitz and U2 – No Line on the Horizon
After our favorite Williamsburg rockers showed us their bones in 2006, they strike again, not by prowling on beer-drench stages as their doe-eye front woman makes love to her mic, but by heading to the clubs. Forget punk anthems, hormone-fueled sex rants, and orgasmic-induced screeching. The trio from Yeah Yeah Yeahs (YYY) takes it down a notch on their new album It’s Blitz, expected to debut on March 31st, but already available in digital form thanks to their legions of impatient fans. Trust us, the wait is worth it because it’s too grand and spectacular of an album that will be heard for decades to come. Whether you’re getting high in Washington Square Park during a sudden warm winter or marching down the Brooklyn Bridge on a star-lit evening, It’s Blitz is the ultimate New York soundtrack of the year and undoubtedly one of the best albums in 2009. Taking inspiration from the many nightclubs in the city, YYY goes heavy on synthesizers and less on guitars, while rebellious leading lady Karen O’s vocals are more smooth than throaty. It’s Blitz is a triumphant return that both fans and new listeners will savor all day and night.
When Karen was first questioned about what audiences should expect from YYY’s third album It’s Blitz, she boasted, “It’s something new that we’ve never heard before from ourselves. Less angst and more positivity, man!” That’s exactly what the band features in their new collection of songs, especially in the album opener “Zero,” a cocaine-fueled disco where she commands “Shake it/Like a ladder to the sun.” It’s a groin-thruster with throbbing guitars, insisting that you “get your leather on.” Getting the party started, “Zero” is an attention grabber that will make you listen until the final track. “Soft Shock” is tender with Brian Chase’s steady drums, along with constant bleeps and blips emphasizing Karen’s melodic, dreamy, vocals that have the magic of a summer romance.
Aside from heal-stomping beats, there are also some dark, haunting singles to keep listeners guessing. “Skeletons” is a slow, lingering melody that one needs an acquired taste for. The anticipation of the song suddenly going into a hit number disappoints, like a weak-performing lover that never reaches the dramatic climax that we yearn for. There’s a hint of an oriental, mourning echo that’s faint, but persistent, which perhaps touches on Karen’s Korean heritage. In a delicate, breathy voice, she croons the tragic haiku, “Love left dry, frost or flame, skeleton me.” Fortunately, “Dull Life” rekindles our love for YYY with her aggressive warnings of nightmares from lies, Nick Zinner’s guitar swivels that do the same for our hips, and the upbeat, gypsy garage beat that somehow makes us forget that the song is about a misleading beau.
YYY’s It’s Blitz may leave fans scratching their heads in confusion, not knowing what to make of their new sound that could easily tell the story of Donna Summer raving in Webster Hall on a Saturday night. It’s a mixed bag that will leave people hating or loving it, but like a feel-good drug, you can’t help but be hooked. Bring on the spandex and let YYY leave us wondering what the night will bring us next.
“Not There Yet” might be a more apt title for U2’s new album “o Line On the Horizon because while it’s admirable that the band has chosen to venture again into a new musical direction, the songs don’t quite gel and the album feels incomplete in a larger sense. That being said, there certainly are some terrific songs on the album and it’s a good listen but it really feels more like an experiment than a final work.
The most interesting tracks on the album might be the Will.i.am produced track “I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight” which has a peppy tempo with a cool vocal melody that gives the song a great energy and “Unknown Caller” which sounds quite a bit like old school U2, so it’s not terribly innovative, but when it works, it works. Some songs such as “Moment of Surrender” offers interesting advances from the group that are very encouraging like digital looped electronic guitar sounds over moody tones and emotional vocals but contrast with songs like “Magnificent” which has a trancey, Talking Heads sounding intro but then reverts to sounding like U2 covering U2 which becomes formulaic and dull quick.
Overall, the album doesn’t work well as a musical artistic piece and feels more like a collection of unreleased b-sides but it’s always interesting to hear new material from U2 regardless. There are a couple of songs that will really grow on you and U2 does seem to be moving in an interesting direction, they just haven’t arrived at their destination yet. For a U2 fan, it’s a must buy and for a casual fan check out a few songs on iTunes.