Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz! (Vinyl)

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It's Blitz! is the third studio album by American indie rock band Yeah Yeah Yeahs, released on March 6, 2009, by Interscope Records. It was originally set for release on April 13, 2009. However, after being leaked to the Internet on February 22, the release date was pushed forward to March 9 for the digital version and March 31 for the physical version. The album was produced by Nick Launay, along with TV on the Radio's David Andrew Sitek. It spawned three singles: "Zero", "Heads Will Roll", and "Skeletons".

According to Nick Launay, one of the two producers, the recording of the album was unusual for being largely written and created in the studio at a time when record labels have cut back considerably on production budgets. The few songs the band did take along to the first sessions were later altered significantly. Launay described a typical session as follows:

Brian [Chase] would play lots of different drumbeats and we'd record it, chop it up and then make a groove loop out of it. Nick [Zinner] would then just jam to it, and we'd come up with an interesting rhythm part. Karen [O] would listen to that and come up with a vocal melody and then suddenly everything would fall into place.

The album sessions took place over several months in 2008, during which time there were numerous breaks "to get inspired".


As people in their teens are wont to do, I took every opportunity presented to me in the period between 2001 and 2004 to mouth off to whoever would listen about how all the bands who were vogue at the time would have disappeared in 5 years. The Strokes, The White Stripes, The Vines, The Hives, Kings of Leon, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Jet, The Libertines, The Von Bondies - all of them felled in one swoop by the contempt of a 16-year old with a big mouth who didn't yet know that 90% of bands don't last 5 years anyway.

Well, the 5 years are up, and I was mostly right. There are swarms of other bands who sounded like that, and I can't remember enough about any of them to name them. Jet and The Vines disappeared quietly off into the night; The Hives were last seen duetting with Cyndi Lauper and Timbaland and still not really getting anywhere either critically or commercially; The Strokes are still a going concern but have seen their stock drop rapidly since Is This It? and most expect their next record to be a damp squib; The Libertines broke up and more and more people have been figuring out the scam ever since; The Von Bondies are still only notable for getting beat up by Jack White. Speaking of, The White Stripes have kept going and are now such an institution that Mr. White has done a Bond theme, but in reality you always suspected that they would be the ones who would age well.

Which leaves us with Kings of Leon and Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The former have absolutely shocked me in the way they've gone from being a clattering, mostly worthless bunch of chancers to suddenly deserving to be considered one of the world's best and biggest rock bands, and I'm absolutely glad to hold my hands up and say I was wrong. The album where they turned the corner was their third, 2007's Because of the Times, and just about the best thing you could say about It's Blitz! is that it's got an awful lot in common with that record.

Crucially, Yeah Yeah Yeahs have discovered melody, and a sense of tension and release - both things missing from their earlier work. That's where they most clearly emulate the gigantic leap forward that Kings of Leon made - a song like the gorgeous "Hysteric" could simply never have existed on the previous two records, its payoff line of 'suddenly you complete me' laying waste to the legacy of their previous high watermark, "Maps", in just four words (not that "Maps" had many more words that that in it). The same development is demonstrated in every ballad here; even if none of them quite reach the heights of "Hysteric" ("Runaway" comes closest), they're all obviously the work of a band who've gone away, taken stock of their strengths and weaknesses, really thought about how to move forward, and then gone and done it. The two most prominent of those strengths are both out in full force throughout, with Karen O's knack for a slightly weird yet oddly affecting lyric repeatedly exploited and Nick Zinner's gift for getting a massive amount of impact from a tiny amount of input feeding into everything. In fact, it's hard to remember the last time a guitarist (in a predominantly guitar-based band, no less) made such a difference to a record while taking such a back-seat. First-time listeners with strict expectations might not even notice Zinner is there at all on quite a few of these tracks, and dismiss this as a synth-tastic Karen O solo album - yet pay more attention and his subtle touches shine through in a way they never have before. Now that he's not carrying all the melodic and rhythmic weight on his own shoulders, as he has done on their two earlier albums, he's free to do things like this. It's Blitz is by no means a great guitar album in the traditional sense, but he sounds as free and inspired as ever here.

It's the synths, however, that hold this album back, in a more general sense. For one thing, the influences brought in here are all drawn from dance music, particularly that of the 80s, and the indie-rock-band-discovers-80s-synth-pop path is so well trodden by this point that we're all just waiting for the next trend to happen and it's hard to get excited about anything that seems so tied to a mid-00's ideal. Yet, again, it's the comparison to Because of the Night that really throws up why this is a problem where the Yeah Yeah Yeahs haven't quite succeeded to the degree they might have - because while the use of synths here is fine and isn't as completely homogenous with nu-rave as skeptics might expect, there are ideologies at play. Kings of Leon - and The Killers, for that matter - have become so huge because the artist's they're aiming at are the likes of U2, Bruce Springsteen, Simple Minds - big-hearted rock bands who scored a mass audience by acknowledging and embracing their emotions. The artists that the YYYs sail closer to were similarly inclusive, but they rejected and ignored those emotions and just sang about dancing instead. There's nothing wrong with that in the right context, of course, and this ballad-heavy album is certainly not vapid in any way, but by placing themselves in that sort of lineage they've harmed their own cause.

That's just the reason why they've made a great album and not a classic, though. It's Blitz will probably date badly and, despite clearly being better than Fever To Tell, it probably won't be remembered by as many people, or as fondly by those people. Regardless, it is a great album, and one that's come out of leftfield as far as its style and its depth goes. It'll be interesting to see who exactly embraces this album, but whoever does, plenty will. It deserves no less.

By; Lai.

A1 Zero
A2 Heads Will Roll
A3 Soft Shock
A4 Skeletons
A5 Dull Life
B1 Shame And Fortune
B2 Runaway
B3 Dragon Queen
B4 Hysteric
B5 Little Shadow

Companies, etc.
Phonographic Copyright ℗ – Polydor Ltd. (UK)
Copyright © – Polydor Ltd. (UK)
Record Company – Universal Music
Mastered At – – 88474E
Pressed By – Record Industry – 83963
Front sticker:
Includes ZERO &
"Spectacular" ***** Q

℗ 2009 Polydor Ltd (UK) © 2009 Polydor Ltd (UK) The copyright in this sound recording is owned by Polydor Ltd (UK), A Universal Music Company.
Made in the EU.

Heavyweight vinyl (180g+)